Al Hilal Omdurman striker Waleed Bakhit scored twice to ensure Kenya’s Emerging Stars, the U23 side went 2-0 down to Sudan’s U23 side in the first leg of the 2019 African Cup of Nations U23 qualifier staged at the Al Merreikh Stadium on Wednesday 20 March.
The two-legged qualification tie now means Kenya has to win the return clash set for March 26 in Nairobi by a scoreline of three or more goals to advance to the next round.
Francis Kimanzi’s boys did start well, with on-form forwards Jeffari Owiti and John Avire upfront. An unfortunate lapse in concentration, however, in the 22nd minute, would see goalkeeper Brian Bwire spill an easy ball right into the path of Waleed who tapped home into an empty net for the opener.
Sudan kept the slim lead into the break and upon resumption, Jeffari was withdrawn for Ovella Ochieng as the Emerging Stars sought a response. A solid display in the midfield from the hosts saw Kenya’s attempts at pouring out into the final third fall short and a midfield change was needed.
Sven Yidah was thrown in for Alwyn Tera on 54 minutes in a bid to solidify the central park but even this too, could not open any leeway for the visitors.
Ovella could have leveled matters for Kenya the 67th minute had his shot not deflected off of a Sudan defender for a corner kick. In the 73rd minute, however, things would turn from bad to worse for the Emerging Stars when a penalty was awarded to Sudan – and Waleed tasked with making it 2-0. He did just that.
Attempts to at least get an away goal saw Sydney Lokale come on for captain of the day Teddy Osok but the hosts held on for the 2-0 win, and Kenya, will only be hoping for a superb response six days to come in Nairobi.
The winner of the tie on aggregate will face either Nigeria or Libya and from here, the third round winner will grace the Africa U23 Cup of Nations, set to be held in Egypt in November 2019.
Kenya Starting XI: Brian Bwire (GK), David Owino, Yusuf Mainge, Mike Kibwage, Johnstone Omurwa, Teddy Osok (C) (Sydney Lokale), James Mazembe, Ibrahim Shambi, John Avire, Alwyn Tera (Sven Yidah), Jafari Owiti (Ovella Ochieng)
Bench: Timothy Odhiambo (GK), Boniface Onyango, Tobias Omondi, Sven Yidah, Boniface Mukhekhe, Ovella Ochieng, Sydney Lokale