Harambee Stars on Monday night defeated Togo 2-1 in the final group G match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers played at Stade de Kegue in Togo.
Abdallah Hassan and Masud Juma scored in both halves to ensure Kenya ended the qualifiers on a high note after missing out on qualification during their draw against Egypt last week.
Henri Eninful scored a late consolation goal for the hosts from the spot as Togo finished bottom.
Harambee Stars finished third in Group G with seven points as Group leaders Egypt who saw off Comoros 4-0 have already booked their tickets to the continental showpiece.
Bandari midfielder Abdallah Hassan, who netted Stars’ lone goal in their 1-1 draw against Egypt last Thursday, gave Kenya a narrow 1-0 advantage at the break after netting in the 36th minute.
Juma would double the scores from the penalty spot after the restart, beating Togo goalkeeper from six yards out with a hard shot in the top left corner before the hosts pulled one goal back in the added minutes of extra time through Eninful penalty.
The win saw Kenya register their first win at the qualifiers without skipper Michael Olunga, defender Joash Onyango, midfielder Lawrence Juma and keeper Ian Otieno who reportedly missed the match due to Covid-19 positive tests.
In Otieno’s absence, Ulinzi Stars keeper James Saruni started in goal, with Clyde Senaji coming in for Joash Onyango.
Nashon Alembi featured alongside Senaji, with Masud Juma leading the line in place of Olunga.
Harambee Stars Starting XI
James Saruni (GK), Daniel Sakari, Nahashon Alembi, Clyde Senaji, Eric Ouma, Duke Abuya, Duncan Otieno, Abdalla Hassan, Kevin Kimani, Cliffton Miheso, Masud Juma(C).
Joseph Okoth (GK), Baraka Badi, Harun Mwale, David Owino, Cliff Nyakeya, Kevin Simiyu, Elvis Rupia.
The Stars head coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee motivated his team ahead of the Togo clash despite being eliminated from the continental showpiece, pointing out finishing third would be a very positive result moving forward.
“It is a game we don’t want to lose at least we need to finish the group in a respectable position and with a respectable result. We are going to Togo to try to win that game, it is a long time since Kenya won away from home, it is not going to be an easy match but judging from our display against Egypt if we can just equal the same away then we believe we can finish third in the group,” said Mulee ahead of the Monday showdown.
Mulee and his boys will now seek to qualify for the 2022 World Cup finals slated to be held in Qatar.
Stars, who were pooled in Group E in January 2020, will take on Mali, Uganda, and Rwanda in the second round of the qualifiers.
Only the winner of the group will be guaranteed a place in the final phase of the qualifiers.
All the teams in Group E will be seeking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time.
Stars, steered by the then head coach Bobby Williamson in 2015, reached the second round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification where they were bundled out by Cape Verde on a 2-1 aggregate scoreline.