How Starlets countered Ghana’s experience in Olympics Qualifiers

Kenya’s Harambee Starlets will play in the penultimate round of the 2020 CAF Women’s Olympic Qualifiers after dispatching favorites Ghana 1-0 on Tuesday 8 October at Moi International Sports Center (MISC) Kasarani.

Starlets, coached by David Ouma, needed an extra-time penalty kick from Gentrix Shikangwa to steer his girls into the round where they will face Zambia’s Shepolopolo. He had managed to hold the Black Queens to a barren draw in Accra.

Ouma’s current Starlets unit boasts a bulk of youth who have been doing well in the Kenya Women’s Premier League, goal scorer Shikangwa in fact, is just 17 years of age and is new to the national team. Another new face in the fold is Kisumu All Starlets forward Mercy Airo Akinyi who boasts of 32 goals in the local league.

Making her debut for the national team last week in Accra, Airo reveals what helped them hold the Black Queens at their own turf.

”We were told they never draw or lose at home so we went there very prepared. The coach told us to play a compact game and defend as a team, also attack as one. That’s how we stopped them,” says Airo who came on for Gaspo Youth’s Elizabeth Wamboi in the second half of last week’s tie.

How Starlets lined up for the Ghana match [IMAGE- Dianah Yonah]

When Ghana came to Nairobi for the second leg of the clash, they roped in a few big names that had been missing in the first leg due to commitments and it was clear they had come to Kasarani to win. Coach Ouma threw Airo into the starting eleven – his main tact, to hit the experienced Black Queens on the counter.

”Pressure was on them really, and that helped us and our tactics. They are very heavy and given the way we had been instructed to play, our opponents were going to tire out as the game went on,” Airo, who won the Golden Boot in the 2018 Chapa Dimba na Safaricom competition, further revealed to Soka.

Another barren draw was recorded after ninety minutes and extra time was called. Starlets wasted no time taking the lead. Cheryl Angachi’s header from a corner kick was goal-bound but was stopped by a hand occasioning a penalty. Shikangwa stepped up to power in a left in-footed kick for a Starlets lead and one that aids progression.

Ouma’s team now has to plot against Zambia who won 2-0 away to Botswana. This will be the second last round of the qualifiers.

Images- Courtesy [Dianah Yonah]