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Kone makes the difference for Mali against frustrated Kenya in Nairobi

Kenya came out looking like a completely different side from the team that was humiliated by Mali earlier this week in Morocco, but the Harambee Stars could not finish their opportunities and fell victim to a 1-0 smash and grab defeat that eliminated them from contention in FIFA World Cup qualifying Sunday. Ibrahima Koné was the hero again for Mali, following up his hat-trick earlier this week by popping up again with a class finish to keep Les Aigles in the driver seat at the top of Group E. Mali now lead second-placed Uganda by two points with two games left to play.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that underdogs Kenya dominated the first half. Recently appointed manager Engin Firat clearly got his message through much more effectively than on his disastrous competitive debut, and Kenyan supporters were pleased to see their team take the game to their more fancied opponents. Michael Olunga set up two opportunities in the opening twenty minutes, setting up Duke Abuya and Boniface Muchiri for shot attempts that were saved by Malian keeper Ibrahim Mounkoro.

After having several chances to take the lead, Kenya were nearly stunned at the end of the first half when Adama Malouda Traoré of Sheriff Tiraspol sent in a lofted free kick that found Diadie Samassékou, but the Hoffenheim midfielder’s looping header went off the crossbar before being scrambled clear. Right after the break Olunga was involved again for Kenya with his low shot across the goal mouth just being out of the reach of substitute David Owino only twenty seconds into the second period.

However, all the missed opportunities were destined to come back and haunt the Harambee Stars, and Mali took their chance before ten minutes were finished in the second half. Left back Charles Traoré was fed down the wing and put in a low cross to find Koné, who delivered an excellent finishing shot into the top corner past Kenya keeper Brian Bwire. From then on a demoralized Kenya struggled to get back on the front foot and despite an underwhelming performance, Mali held out for the three road points.

Highlights are in the button link below.

Highlights from FIFA TV

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