NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 19- Kenyan Premier League and GOtv Shield champions Tusker FC will rue conceding a goal at home as they crashed out of the CAF Champions League in the preliminary round with a 2-1 loss to Mauritian Champions AS Port Louis at the New George V Stadium in Mauritius on Sunday.
The hosts came from a goal down to strike late twice in the 85th and 89th minutes, taking the aggregate score to 3-2.
Port Louis had picked a vital 1-1 result from the first leg played last Saturday in Nairobi and that one goal they scored is what ensured their passage to the first round.
From the team that played in the first leg, Ugandan coach George ‘Best’ Nsimbe made several changes.
Shafik Batambuze was pushed upfront to play as an offensive winger while new signing Vincent Omumbo came in to play at left back, though not a natural left footed defender. Collins Shivachi started on the right side of defense with skipper James Situma dropping to the bench.
After a positive start, Hashim Ssempala gave Tusker an early lead in the 21st minute with a long range effort, putting the Kenyan champions within touching distance of the first round.
Tusker had started the match brightly, with full knowledge that they needed to win to progress. After Ssempala’s opener, Tusker should have taken a comfortable 2-0 score line to the dressing room but Anthony Ndolo missed an open chance at the stroke of half time.
In the second half, the brewers kept their surge and had another chance with a Noah Wafula shot that skied over the bar. Ndolo was also guilty of missing two golden opportunities.
With 10 minutes remaining, Tusker head coach Nsimbe pulled out Batambuze for James Situma, a clear decision to try and solidify their slim lead and defend for the remaining minutes of the game.
However, the missed chances would come to haunt them with Ephram Guikan taking the game level with an 85th minute goal. The striker then pulled in the sucker punch in the 89th minute, finishing off from a corner after suspect defending from the visitors.
Port Louis now qualifies for the first round where they will play Sudanese side Al Hilal.
Tusker had hoped to progress to the group stages of the Champions League as they only needed to win the two matches at Port Louis and Al Hilal. They now return home with the focus solely on defending their twin titles, with coach Nsimbe now clearly under immense pressure to deliver.