Birthday boy Olunga turns on the style as Harambee Stars tame Zimbabwe to claim Four Nations bragging rights

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga celebrates a goal. Photo: FKF Media.

Birthday boy Olunga turns on the style as Harambee Stars tame Zimbabwe to claim Four Nations bragging rights

Joel Omotto 20:00 - 26.03.2024

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga celebrated his 30th birthday with a remarkable performance as he led Kenya to victory over Zimbabwe in the Four Nations tournament.

Michael Olunga celebrated his 30th birthday with a hat-trick as Harambee Stars beat Zimbabwe 3-1 in what turned out to be a contest of 10 men on either side in the Four Nations tournament on Tuesday.

With the trophy at stake, Harambee Stars had to do it the hard way as Olunga equalised on the stroke of halftime, having been second best in large parts of the first half.

Harambee Stars went behind just three minutes into the contest when Johnstone Omurwa lost his marker before a cross in the box saw Joseph Okumu score in his own net in an attempt to clear the ball.

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Kenya goalkeeper Patrick Matasi was then forced into two good saves in quick succession, one after a swift attack from the Zimbabweans, while the second was an attempted dink over him after the Southern Africans got in behind the Harambee Stars defence.

By that time, Zimbabwe were bossing Kenya, easily bypassing their midfield while Olunga cut a lonely figure upfront.

Sensing danger, Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat took off Chrispine Erambo and brought on Kenneth Muguna after just 24 minutes in an attempt to gain control in midfield.

The substitution turned out to be an inspired one as Kenya gained stability and started stringing passes together while threatening the Zimbabwe goal.

They were rewarded on the stroke of halftime when Vincent Mahiga started an attack on the left before passing to Ayub Timbe. Timbe crossed into the box and Olunga showed good centre forward play to beat two defenders and head it home for 1-1 at halftime.

After the break, Kenya began with vigour and they would soon get an advantage a few minutes later when a physical confrontation saw Teenage Hadebe shown a red card to reduce Zimbabwe to 10 men.

Kenya took full advantage and they were celebrating the second goal a few minutes later. Rooney Onyango brought in a cross which Zimbabwe goalkeeper Bernard Donovan palmed away but the ball fell into Olunga’s path and the Al Duhail striker made no mistakes for 2-1 in favour of Firat’s men after 63 minutes.

It was Olunga’s fourth goal in two games after bagging a brace in his side’s 4-0 thrashing of Malawi on Saturday.

Harambee Stars then slowed things down with Firat bringing in Amos Nondi for Daniel Anyembe with 20 minutes to go but Kenya suffered a setback three minutes later when Richard Odada received his marching orders for a second bookable offence.

That saw the contest turn into a 10-aside game and the onus was on Kenya to protect what they had.

Kenya would have added a third goal against the run of play but Olunga failed to connect well with the ball but there was no denying the Kenyan captain a few minutes later.

A swift counter attack saw Kenya fail to score but Olunga received the ball just outside the box and fired home an unstoppable shot to complete his hat-trick and take his tally in national team colours to 29 goals from 58 games.