Kenya’s hopes of a first CAF Africa Cup of Nations appearance in 11 years suffered a setback Sunday when they lost a qualifier 1-0 in Lesotho. Bushy Moletsane, a 30-year-old central midfielder, scored the lone goal on the hour mark at the Setsoto Stadium in Maseru.
Lesotho upset Liberia in the previous elimination round for the 2015 Africa Cup in Morocco and are seeking to reach the finals for the first time. Kenya were forced to field a depleted team with clubs in Belgium, Norway and France not releasing four players as the qualifier fell outside official FIFA international dates.
Among those missing were goalkeeper Arnold Origi and star striker Dennis Oliech. But midfielder Victor Wanyama was freed by English Premier League club Southampton for the third-round, first-leg clash.
Kenya went into the match confident after 16 players and four coaches watched FIFA World Cup™ matches in Brazil last month. The trip was a reward from President Uhuru Kenyatta after the Harambee Stars won the regional CECAFA Challenge Cup last December. Belgium-born head coach Adel Amrouche watched from the stand in Maseru as he is serving a two-match touchline ban.
Tanzania were another east Africa country to disappoint as they could only draw 2-2 at home against Mozambique. The Taifa Stars failed to beat the Mambas in four previous Africa Cup of Nations clashes and a late Isac Carvalho goal salvaged a draw for Mozambique in Dar es Salaam.
Elias ‘Dominques’ Pelembe from South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns converted an early second-half penalty to put the Mozambicans ahead. Zanzibar-born Mcha Khamis responded with two goals in seven minutes, including one from a spot-kick, only for Carvalho to net three minutes before time. Tanzania are coached by Mart Nooij from the Netherlands, who spent four years from 2007 in charge of Mozambique.
Midfielder Stephane Sessegnon from English Premier League outfit West Bromwich Albion scored the 18th-minute goal which gave Benin a 1-0 win over Malawi in Cotonou. It also lifted Sessegnon to the top of the scoring charts in the qualifiers with four goals after he struck three in a second-round victory over Sao Tome e Principe. Congo took 70 minutes to score against Rwanda in Pointe-Noire through Cesaire Gandze and Ferebory Dore added a second for a 2-0 victory.
The three Saturday games produced 2-0 home victories for Botswana over Guinea-Bissau, Uganda over Mauritania, and Sierra L:Leone over the Seychelles. Return matches are scheduled for August 2-3 and the seven aggregate winners advance to the group stage. Defending champions Nigeria are among 21 countries who received byes into the mini-league phase.