A brave Harambee Stars battled favorites Egypt to a 1-1 draw in the first match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers played in Alexandria on Thursday evening.
The hosts took the lead with three minutes left to the half-time break, Mahmoud Karhaba capitalizing on a poor Eric Ouma backpass to slot into an empty net.
Stars' talisman Michael Olunga, however, leveled on the 67th minute following a poor clearance from the home side.
Matasi injury after 10 minutes
Harambee Stars suffered an injury blow after just 10 minutes, first-choice keeper Patrick Matasi limping off with a knee injury and replaced by Otieno Ian, who was making his debut.
Stars matched the Pharaos for long spells especially in the first half, and had a number of chances to open their account but were denied by the impressive Mohamed El Shenawy.
Ayub Timbe came close to opening the scores for Stars on the 20th minute, after dancing through the Egypt defense and finding a perfect shot that ended in El Shenawy’s hands.
Keeper comes to Egypt's rescue, twice
Two minutes later Olunga once again had a long shot from the edge of the box on his favorite left-foot, but the keeper easily collected it.
Timbe was then withdrawn for Cliff Nyakeya on the half-hour mark, and the substitute had an immediate impact, earning a freekick from just outside the box which they failed to capitalize on.
With the match seemingly going into the break tied at 0-0, Ouma tried a backpass to his goalkeeper but was intercepted partially due to the poor state of the ground, leading to Karhaba's goal past the keeper, who had left his line to clear the danger.
Egypt went all out in the second-half to try find a second goal that could have given them the much-needed security, but Stars matched their runs and play in midfield.
Their resistance paid off in the 67th minute as Olunga bundled in the equalizer from inside the box, after a mixup between the keeper and one of his defenders.
Egypt came close to finding the winning goal on the 81st minute, but the Stars stood firm with resolute defending after three quick shots on target with the ball finally rolling out for a corner.
There was little action afterward as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.