Harambee Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi has absolved his players from any blame following their losing start to the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification campaign at the hands of Sierra Leone on Saturday.
Handing a starting berth to among other players, Masoud Juma, attracted a lot of criticism from Kenya’s fans but Okumbi says he sent out his best starters, instead blaming their loss on factors beyond their control.
Julius Wobay scored in the first half and skipper Umaru Bangura added a second from the spot with Michael Olunga scoring Kenya’s late consolation to see the game end 2 – 1. Kenya’s Brian Mandela was red carded after a bad tackle on Alhassan Kamara to mount more pressure on the game chasing Stars.
“I don’t want to blame my players because I know they gave everything to win. Actually officiating was not standard as everyone else might have witnessed, plus the fact that the rain and pitch condition slowed us,” said the former Mathare United tactician.
“Selection was based on tactics and merit and I, therefore, stand with the selection. Had it been a standard playing pitch, the story could have been different,” added Okumbi who was forced to adapt long ball strategy in the match.
Kenya’s other Group F opponents Ghana and Ethiopia will square it out on Sunday in Accra.