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By Joel Masibo 

Kenya national men’s football team held Russia to a 2-2 stalemate in an international friendly played on Monday, October 16, 2023, at the Titanic Sports Complex in  Antalya, Turkey.

It was the first time Harambee Stars played a high profiled match against a European outfit after beating Iran 2-1 away and losing 0-1 to South Sudan in their previous international friendlies respectively.

Notably, apart from captain Michael Olunga yet again struggling in the national colors, there was a lot of positives for Harambee Stars to draw from the Russia encounter.

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Patrick Matasi showed great improvement between the sticks after coming on as a substitute in the place of first choice keeper of the day Byrne Omondi who sustained an injury in the 13th minute.

Anthony Akumu was solid in the midfield, boosting his confidence after canceling Aleksandr Sobolev’s 8th minute opener in the 16th minute after a defensive mistake in the Russian backline.

Forward Masud Juma made amends after failing to locate the net on different occasions. He came back in the game, adding the second goal for Kenya in the 36th minute to hand Harambee Stars a shocking 2-1 advantage at the break.

However, after trying for the better part of the tie to protect their lead, Harambee Stars cracked the death as Russia’s Ivan Oblyakov found the equaliser for the Europeans in the 89th minute.

Kenya has been using the international friendlies to prepare for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in November. The side will arguably be heading into crucial fixtures head high after recording drawing confidence from the Russia performance. They are pooled in Group F against Ivory Coast, Gabon, Gambia, Burundi, and Seychelles.

Reflecting on the game, Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat praised his charges after the match in Turkey;

“It’s the first time Kenya gets to experience a European team and against a big footballing country, to play against these kinds of teams with good players is very tough o play against these kinds of teams is very tough but the boys played very well.”

Starting XI

Byrne Odhiambo (GK), Amos Nondi, Joseph Okumu, Johnstone Omurwa, Erick Ouma, Richard Odada, Anthony Akumu, Kenneth Muguna, Rooney Onyango, Masud Juma, Michael Olunga

Substitutes

Patrick Matasi, Brian Bwire, Brian Mandela, Collins Sichenje, Daniel Sakari, Vincent Harper, Alpha Onyango, Ayub Timbe, Ovella Ochieng, Alfred Scriven, Cliffton Miheso, Moses Shummah

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