The national women’s Under-20 team on Saturday sailed through to the second round of the Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup qualifiers after beating Ethiopia 2-1 in the second leg of their first round tie at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
Added to their first leg meeting which ended in a 2-2 stalemate, Saturday’s result meant that the Harambee Starlets juniors won 4-3 on aggregate to proceed to the second last stage of qualification.
Skipper Corazon Aquino and Gentrix Shikangwa scored for Kenya in either half of the game, while Mirrat Feleke scored what was only a consolation goal for the junior Lucy.
Aquino, who turns up for Women’s Premier League side Soccer Queens, scored in the seventh minute of the match to give the Kenyans an early lead.
Aquino, who featured in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon last year, dispatched a ferocious shot from 20 yards out after some good work by Shikangwa, giving Ethiopia’s goalkeeper Gentrix Abera no chance.
Kenya however conceded a penalty in the 42nd minute when Kenyan goalkeeper Lillian Awuor felled Aragesh Geremew inside the box and the referee did not hesitate from pointing to the spot.
Feleke made no mistake from 12 yards to claw the Ethiopians back into the game.
Starlets returned from the breather with even more determination, and retook the lead in the 51st minute through Vihiga Queens striker Shikangwa.
Shikangwa profited from Abera’s howler, who guided the ball into her own net in an attempt to clear it from danger.
Coach Musa Otieno commended the girls for advancing to the next stage, although he cautioned that the journey to next year’s World Cup in France has just gotten tougher.
“I am happy. Everyone is happy that we’ve scaled this hurdle, because we started off a little on the wrong foot,” said Otieno.
“These girls are young but they have very good character. That is why they managed to recover from two goals down in the first leg, and it is also why they have managed to win today despite the tough opponents.”
“The next two stages will be more difficult so we shall have to plan well to ensure that we remain in this competition until the very end.”
Kenya have now advanced to the penultimate stage of qualification where they will face either Algeria or Ghana.