Kenya's Harambee Starlets beat Equatorial Guinea 2-1 at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Wednesday evening to inch closer to qualifying for their second consecutive African Women's Cup of Nations.
Starlets will now need any kind of draw in the return leg in Malabo on Sunday to book a spot at the biennial continental showpiece in Ghana. The side coached by David Ouma came from a goal down with Teresa Engesha scoring a scorching equalizer before Esse Akida stepped off the bench to score the winner in the 84th minute.
I am really pleased that we could win this game. We knew Equatorial Guinea would be a tough team and we came mentally prepared. We now look ahead to the return leg and I am confident we can get a good result, Akida said after the game.
Coach Ouma was elated with the performance and credited it to a stronger mental approach.
It was a bit sad that we conceded a goal off a set piece but heading into the second leg, we need to manage the game better. Winning gives us some sense of security and will reduce the pressure going to the second leg. I am happy with how we performed and now what remains is to go and finish the job, Ouma said.
His opposite number Severino Beseku said he still has hopes they can overturn the result in Malabo, saying the away goal they scored would give them confidence to go all out attack at home.
It was a good game; very tough but we leave with a loss. However, we have that one goal away and I believe it will come in to help us at home, the tactician noted.
The visitors were the first to open the scoring when Jade Boho Sayo sneaked in at the back post to head home a corner from Genoveva Anonman. However, it took Starlets only two minutes to restore parity and it came in emphatic fashion.
Engesha picked the ball from distance and sighting the keeper off her line let off a ferocious shot that looped above the custodian and into the net.
Prior to the two goals, both sides had chances to score with Neddy Atieno hitting the side netting for Kenya while Sayo had a shot from range going straight into keeper Poline Atieno's arms.
In the second half, the hosts upped the tempo knowing only too well they needed to win against the two-time African champions to boost their qualification hopes. Four minutes after the restart, Dorcas Shikobe was presented with a good chance after being teed up by Cheris Avilia but her shot went wide.
Coach Ouma made changes, Akida coming in for Sheryl Angachi while later Neddy Atieno and goal scorer Engesha were pulled out for Mercy Achieng and Cynthia Shilwatso. Starlets survived a scare in the 70th minute with keeper Atieno making a brilliant save to tip over a header from Gloria Chinasa who had gone high unmarked from another of Anonman's deliveries.
Having survived the bullet and making attacking changes, Kenya turned the tide on the West Africans and it paid off six minutes from time with two substitutes combining, Shilwatso cutting back a cross into the box which Akida side footed home.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football