Harambee Starlets suffer narrow loss to Cameroon in Cup of Nations qualifier


FOOTBALL Harambee Starlets suffer narrow loss to Cameroon in Cup of Nations qualifier

Festus Chuma 23:00 - 22.09.2023

Kenya faced a tough battle against Cameroon in the 2024 Africa Women's Cup of Nations qualifier first leg but ultimately fell short.

National women's football team Harambee Starlets will have to fight for a win in the second leg of the 2024 Africa Women's Cup of Nations (WAFCON) qualifiers first round after going down 1-0 to Cameroon in the first leg on Friday night.

The match was played  at Reunification Stadium in Douala, Cameroon, where Spain-based defender Eliane Mambalano scored the all-important goal in the first half that gave the Indomitable Lionesses the needed advantage.

Kenya will host the second leg on September 26th at Nyayo National Stadium with the winner advancing to the second round of the competition.

Harambee Starlets looked dangerous in transition in the opening minutes of the game, but it was goalkeeper Annedy Kundu who made the first notable save.

Cameroon broke the deadlock just ninth minutes into the game through Mambolano Eliane. The quick striker scored with a powerful header after connecting set piece from Aboudi Ongueene to hand the hosts a 1-0 lead.

Harambee Starlets were then able to put pressure on the Indomitable Lionesses defense as they looked to level matters and they should have equalized through Corazone Aquino. The left-footed player beat her marker inside the visitors' box, but she was superbly denied by goalkeeper Bihima Michaely.

Ten minutes later Starlets were on the attack again down the right-wing, this time Mwanahalima Adam with a low cross to find Teresa Engesha but she skewed her 12-yard shot inches wide of the target.

In fact, the Starlets had the best chance of the first half in the 28th minute when Vivian Makhoha did some great work down the right to put it on a plate for an unmarked Teresa Engesha, nine yards out near the penalty spot, but the Korea-based forward put the finish over the bar.

Kenya continued to see the Indomitable Lionesses share possession, but they could not break down a stubborn Cameroon defense.

Cameroon had a chance to extend their lead from a left-sided free-kick in the 40th minute which Abam Michaella delivered into the box and it was again met by Batya Ambam who saw her 12-yard shot well-saved by the keeper.

The half ended 1-0 in favor of the hosts.

Starlets were absorbing the pressure early in the second stanza and searching for chances on the break, and Mwanahalima Adam’s run on a counter sent Cameroon defence panicking.

Gentrix Shikangwa tried her luck from range three minutes later but the 22-year-old forward fired her effort high over the bar.

That said, the Indomitable Lionesses seized control in the 57th minute and they nearly  extended their lead but Falonne Meffometou sent her free-kick over the crossbar with Kundu out of her position.

The Harambee Starlets technical team reacted by making changes as they introduced Caroline Rufa for Corazone Aquino.

With the Cameroon defense looking solid and compact, Essie Akida decided to try her luck from range and her attempt flew just over the crossbar.

Starlets were threatening on counter-attacks and  Cynthia Shilwatso, came close too to reducing the deficit five minutes later with a cracking strike from range that rattled the crossbar.

Cameroon continued to get the better chances as Kundu pulled off a crucial save in the last eight minutes to deny second half substitute Ajara Njoya in a one-on-one situation.

Kenya were pressing for an equalizer and came too close to grab the leveler but the chance went begging. The ball was delivered inside the box and Cameroon defense failed to clear, Ruth Ingosi had the chance to put the ball into the empty net, but it hit the side net.

How they lined up:

Cameroon: Bihina Michaely , Maague Mariane,Mambalano Eliane,  Falonne Meffometou, Ngock Yango,  Edith Ngock, Charlene Meyong, Abam Michaella, Ngah Manga, Batya Ambam , Aboudi Ongueene

Kenya: Annedy Kundu, Juliet Andimbo, Ruth Ingosi, Corazone Aquino, Vivian Nasaka, Sherly Angachi, Cynthia Shilwatso, Mwanahalima Adam, Essie Akida, Teresa Engesha