Zambia gave Kenya real test but ‘we passed despite our fitness level’

Harambee Stars coach Francis Kimanzi has admitted he was worried about the fitness levels of his charges heading into the friendly against Zambia, which they won 2-1.

Cliff Nyakeya’s strike and an own goal by Tandi Mwape handed Francis Kimanzi’s side the victory while a late goal by Emmanuel Chabula denied the East Africans a home clean sheet at the newly refurbished Nyayo Stadium.

“It’s a great game for us,” Kimanzi is quoted by Standard Sports. “I’m more than delighted for the result because I didn’t get enough time to prepare the players and I was even forced to use players with low fitness levels.

“I knew we would struggle in the last twenty minutes or so and that actually happened with a few players looking exhausted; this because of the situation we have gone through.

“But the important thing is that we’ve gotten the win against a very tough Zambian team. I think this victory has given us a good platform for the upcoming Afcon qualifiers against Comoros. If we had a bad game, it would have burdened us but since we struggled and got the result, it will motivate us.”

Kenya were due to play another friendly against Sudan on Tuesday but it will not take place after the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa confirmed to Goal that Sudan was not ready to travel to Kenya.

“We had planned to play two matches against Zambia and Sudan but because of many issues, Sudan have said they will not be able to play against us,” Mwendwa told Goal on Sunday. “They have given us many issues as to why they cannot come for the friendly and we accept their decision.

“The team will now break camp after the win against Zambia.”

Asked on his assessment of the team after the 2-1 win against the Chipolopolo, Mwendwa said: “It was a scrappy win but for me, a win is a win, we fought hard to get the win and finally got it.

“We had a squad of players who have not been active for the last six months owing to Covid-19 and getting a win against a big giant like Zambia is no mean achievement, I want to thank the players and the technical bench for a good job.”

Against Zambia, Kenya took the lead in the 21st minute when Tandi accidentally redirected Nyakeya’s cross from the right channel into his own net following a clever pass from Kenneth Muguna and 14 minutes later, Nyakeya powered home the second from another Muguna cross.

Second-half substitute Emmanuel Chabula pulled a goal back for the former African champions and there was drama in the dying minutes of the match when Zambia thought they had scored the leveller but it was disallowed.

Kenya used the friendly to gauge their fitness as they have an Africa Cup of Nations double-header coming up in November against Comoros.

Kenya started their campaign for the 2021 Afcon, with an impressive 1-1 draw away to Egypt. They followed it up with another draw, by the same margin, in Nairobi against Togo.

In Group G, Comoros, who started their campaign with a 1-0 win against Togo before settling for a goalless draw against the Pharaohs, lead with four points.

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