Cranes in CECAFA semis, Burundi bows out
Nicholas Kazozi and Mustafa Kizza were each on target as Uganda Cranes stopped a determined Eritrea 2-0, to join Kenya into the semi finals of the ongoing CECAFA Senior Challenge on Wednesday evening at the KCCA Lugogo Stadium, Kampala.
Uganda, has nine points from three matches, meaning the hosts are through to the last four with a match in hand from Group A, which has five teams.
Earlier on at the same venue, Djibouti ensured Burundi was the fisrt team to be eliminated, beating them 2-1 in what stands as the biggest upset of the tournament.
Djibouti head coach Julien Mette praised his team for rising above the underdog tag to smother ‘a team with better football history’ within CECAFA and beyond.
“This win means we have a chance of playing in thr semis, which we will fight to do. We would want to play many mathes between now as we build a team for the World Cup qualifiers, and if we can go further in this tournament it means we get more opportunities for polishing the team,” said Mette.
On his part, Burundi’s Olivier Niyungeko conceded something terrible has hit the team, seeing them lose three matches in a row in the competition.
“We have to ask serious questions among ourselves. It has been hard, because since the 2018 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), we have not won a single match including the African Nations Championship qualifiers. It now remains our singular duty to ensure we win the next match against Somalia to avoid going home empty handed,” a crestfallen Niyungeko told.
Although Eritrea had to endure some rough time in the opening stages of the match, a spirited fight soon saw them trouble Cranes with Michael Habte Grebremesqel and Suleiman Ibrahim both forcing keeper Joel Mutakubwa to demanding saves.
McKinstry had changed almost his entire first team that played in the previous two matches, only keeping captain Khalid Lwaliwa and Kizza but still got the business flow in his preffered speedy style.
Karim Watambala, had his solo effort from 20 yards after dancing around the Eritrea defence miss narrowly, with the keeper out of place.
Suleiman Ibrahim’s powerful shot was blocked by Khalid and richochtted slowly to Mutakubwa, and Uganda survived again from a move well engineered by exceptionally gifted winger Robel Kidane.
Gebremesqel would have scored just before the break whistle, having skillfully dodged past Lwaliwa and Paul Mbowa to break into the box. With Mutakubwa advancing, he was unable to guide the ball into the net to the relief of the Ugandan fans.
The breakthrough came in the 59th, when KCCA midfielder Kazozi beat Kibrom Solomun Haile with a low drive from about 30 yards. Haile had a touch on the ball but could not hold onto it, rolling into the left corner to make it 1-0.
McKinstry then introduced Joel Madondo and Joakim Ojera, with seeking to punish Eritrea more who were then showing signs of weariness.
Ojera’s had easy time on the right channel courtesy of his speed and dribbling ability, his crosses in the box forcing Eritrea to retreat in numbers. First, he sent Muzamiru Mutyaba a fine one that upon connection, beat Solumun Haile but Abel Okbay cleared from the line.
He then set up Madondo who swung amidst two opponents to execute an acrobatic bicycle kick, which however flew over the crossbar.
The pressure was on, and from a free-kick Eritrea conceded a penalty after handball in the box. It was Kizza who was accorded the privilege of converting it, sending Solomon Haile the wrong way to extend the lead to 2-0.
Kazozi, a master of long-range strikes, slightly missed from the about 30 yards having noticed Solomon Haile’s unalertness on goal, before Ojera wasted a glorious opportunity to burry the ball into an empty net from Kizza’s cross.
It had grown to a one sided affair by the time the referee called it a day, Eritrea’s enthusiasm seen in the first stanza completely lost.