NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – Harambee Stars lost to Uganda 1-0 in a riveting Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Senior Challenge Cup final on Tuesday night at the Namboole Stadium in Kampala.
Brian Omony grabbed the lone goal of the match and the tournament’s golden boot as he took advantage of lax Stars’ defending to tap in his fifth goal of the tournament.
Omony’s goal was a body blow to Francis Kimanzi’s side which started the match the brighter of both sides with relentless and high octane attacking football which put the hosts on the back foot for the first 15 minutes.
Mathare midfielder Austin Makacha was the mainstay in a creative Kenya midfield producing brilliant touches and telling runs through the heart of the Cranes defence with Kevin Ochieng, Osborne Monday and Mulinge Ndetto giving the home defence something to think about in the opening quarter.
Makacha almost got the scoreboard ticking in the ninth minute with a header but his effort came off the upright.
Uganda quickly swung into action with swift counter attacks which was their main feature spearheaded by stocky winger Geoffrey Massa who played like a man possessed in front of his home crowd.
Uganda’s pocket rocket Stephen Mengo and Stars Mike Baraza continued to cause problems for their respective opposing defences as the action shifted from one goal mouth to the other making the Namboole atmosphere much more electric.
Mengo almost put his team in front with a searing run into the penalty area but a timely intervention from Stars captain Edgar ‘Fighter’ Ochieng put paid to the Cranes efforts and the ball was cleared for a corner.
The ball was floated into the Kenyan area and bounced invitingly for Omony to score and give his team the advantage after 19 minutes.
That goal completely changed the complexion of the match as Uganda began to smell blood in the water.
The Cranes goalkeeper collected another tame cross from Kevin Ochieng and quickly launched Massa who swept 40 metres upfield only to be stopped by a cynical foul from the backtracking George Owino who was duly cautioned for his transgression.
Uganda continued to up the tempo of their game as the first half wore on, catching Stars on the break with clinical and precise passing but were repelled by the ever reliable Shikokoti and Ndetto who clocked vast mileage for his country as he came back to defend and provided a supporting role going forward.
Baraza almost provided a thunderous start moments after the start of the second period as his speculative shot from 40 metres almost dipped in for the equalizer had the Cranes keeper not tapped it over the crossbar.
Massa, Omony and Bengo continued to rattle the Kenyan defence with lethal shots on goal but Stars keeper Duncan Ochieng had other ideas as he weighed with impressive saves to keep his team in the pulsating encounter.
The pressure on Kenya began to takes its toll when Edgar Ochieng was booked for a foul on Mengo but the diminutive player failed to take advantage from the resultant free kick which sailed over the bar.
The introduction of Jamal Mohamed for Monday revived Stars’ flat attack as the Swedish based midfielder began drawing fouls with his darting runs.
Mohamed’s involvement almost turned out to be a masterstroke with nineteen minutes remaining.
He combined with Makacha for a neat one-two that sliced Uganda open. The midfielder gave a through ball that put Baraza in the clear but the Young Africans striker scuffed his shot with the goal begging.
That was the last act as far as Harambee Stars were concerned and Uganda picked up their ninth CECAFA title to bring the curtain down on the tourney.