Hosts win cup and cash after hard fight against Zanzibar

Kenya's Harambee Stars players celebrate lifting the Cecafa Senior Cup at the Machakos Kenyatta Stadium, east of Nairobi, on December 17, 2017. The Stars beat Zanzibar 3-2 on post-match penalties after they drew 1-1 in normal time and 2-2 after extra-time. CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Kenya's Harambee Stars finally came out of the shadows in dramatic fashion on Sunday to hand millions of success-starved home fans something to smile about.

The Stars won the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup, defeating surprise finalists Zanzibar in a penalty shoot-out in Machakos, about 35km east of Nairobi.

Deputy President William Ruto joined thousands of fans at the Kenyatta Stadium for the epic final of Africa’s oldest regional tournament that ended in a 2-2 in regular and extra time, prompting the dreaded lottery of penalties to break the stalemate.

Perhaps motivated by the recent resurgence under the tutelage of new coach Paul Put, thousands of Kenyans shed off their political and other differences for at least a couple of hours, and opted to rally behind the Stars who had cruised into the final without conceding a goal.

Level the scores

But they had to endure a roller-coaster of emotions as Zanzibar came from behind twice to level the scores 1-1 and then 2-2, forcing the game into penalties.

Kenya’s goalkeeper Patrick Matasi palmed away three spot kicks to earn stars a 3-2 victory in the shoot out.

They were presented with the trophy and medals by Deputy President Ruto who donned a red Harambee Stars track-suit top which bore his initials ‘WR.’

Harambee Stars earned $29,000 (Sh3m) for their troubles with more cash awards expected following pre-tournament pledges from, among others, the deputy president and Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

The final match

Zanzibar took home $19,300 (Sh2m) and Uganda $9,700 (Sh1m) for coming third.

Uganda Cranes, 14-time winners, who until the final match were the defending champions finished third after a come from behind 2-1 win over Burundi in the early kickoff.

A second half brace from Kampala City Council Authority midfielder Saddam Juma invalidated Pierre Kwizera’s 23rd minute opener.

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