Kenya put on a brave showing despite the drama that engulfed their trip to Egypt to hold hosts in the opening Group G clash of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier on Thursday evening.
Harambee Stars camp was under a dark spell right from Nairobi after the journey to Egypt began with a 16-hour flight in economy class.
Once they arrived in Alexandria, it took the intervention of the Egyptian government to lend a helping hand after the Kenyan delegation were served with eviction orders in their hotel due to late payment of accommodation bill.
Michael Olunga, though, did not see any reason to ‘pay back’ the favour when he denied their kind hosts maximum points with a late second half equalizer in a historic 1-1 draw.
The Kashiwa Reysol striker cancelled out a 42nd opener by Mohamed Kahraba, to help Kenya force a first draw with Egypt since 1983, at the Borg El Arab Stadium.
Kenya picked themselves up from double psychological blow with some of their key players facing injuries.
First choice goalkeeper Patrick Matasi was substituted just after five minutes and greenhorn Ian Otieno, who plays in the Zambian Premier League for the Red Arrows, stepped forward in place of the experienced Saint George custodian.
Coach Francis Kimanzi also had to change his tactical approach when Ayub Timbe pulled off an injury and his place was taken up by Mathare United midfielder Cliff Nyakea. At this point, many had written Kenya off.
Despite the setbacks and a goal down, Stars never stopped shining.
Harambee Stars had their best chance of the half in the 21st minute when captain Victor Wanyama found Timbe with a neat pass on the halfway line. The forward tore apart the Egyptian defence with an electric pace, but he was let down by his last touch, a weak shot straight into the hands of goalkeeper, after he was left on one-on-one situation with Mohamed El Shenawy.
Olunga shortly turned Ahmed Hegazi inside out, but his shot was well handled by El Shenawy.
Nyakeya then quicky won a free kick for the visitors with a side step against Mohamed Alaa but Olunga couldn’t direct his free-kick on target from the edge of the box as he fired the ball straight into the wall.
A moment of madness cost Kenya within two minutes to the break when a misplaced back pass by Eric Ouma ricocheted to Mohamed Kahraba from Otieno’s poorly cleared ball.
Kahraba had the easiest of work when he tapped into the empty net for the opening goal.
But Kenya responded with a strong second half display, though the visitors had to wait until slight past the hour-mark for Olunga to hit home the equalizer in the 67th minute.
Terek Hamed played a poor back pass to Ahmed Fathy but Nyakeya stole the ball before setting up Olunga who wasted no chance.
The draw leaves Kenya second on log with a point, and two behind Comoros who beat Togo 1-0 in the other match of the group.
Kenya host Togo on Monday in Nairobi as Comoros play host to Egypt