NAIROBI, Kenya- Harambee Stars head coach Paul Put has hailed his charges for putting up a spirited fight to edge Burundi 1-0 in the semifinal of the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup to reach the finals of the competition for the first time since 2013.
Whyvonne Isuza scored the winner in the 98th minute to send Stars to the final after both sides failed to find the back of the net in regular time.
“I didn’t know the game will head to extra time because the players were fatigued. Their patience in the second half paid off and when you have such quality in the team, you can expect anything. I told the players this is an opportunity to show the whole world our true colours,” said Put.
A bright start from Olivier Niyungeko’s boys saw them dominate the first half and Put admitted that they were second best, blaming it on fatigue.
“I was disappointed with how we played in the first half but we did improve in the second. Unlike Burundi, we played four games in the group stages. This was a tall order to players but for them, after two games they were already in the semis,” argued the Belgian.
With Zanzibar next in line for Put he has promised Kenyans that they are determined to reclaim the title they last won in 2013 under Adel Amrouche.
“This is a marathon, playing after one or two days. We are travelling back to Nairobi tomorrow to plan for the final. I believe Kenyans will understand the situation we are in but we will do our level best to win the cup,” offered the man who is yet to taste defeat since taking over last month.
His opposite number Niyungeko rued the chances that went begging in the first half but took the consolation of the promise shown by his youngsters who gave a good account of themselves against formidable opposition.
“A very tough game with lots of missed chances. We were the better side in the first half but were not lucky. This demoralized my players in the second half but its football. The players gave their best and I am happy.
“We came here to use this tourney as training for the future and I am delighted with the kind of improvement we are making. Also, we came with a depleted squad of 20 players unlike other teams who came with 23. We want to try and finish third on Sunday,” added Niyungeko.