DAR-ES-SALAAM, Tanzania, December 10- History favours the brave they say and not more true for Uganda who courageously came twice from behind in regulation and post-match penalties to win a record 12th Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup on Saturday.
The Cranes came twice from behind to tie the match 2-2 after 90 minutes and after no scores in the extra-time, they took the title for the third time in four years by again coming from two penalties down to literally steal it in the pulsating finish.
Meddie Kagere struck twice for Rwanda in normal time but each time Uganda came back, defender Isaac Isinde punishing a blunder by the otherwise sturdy Rwanda goalie Jean-Claude Ndori and then skipper Olivier Karekezi heading in an own goal from a Uganda corner.
In the shoot-out, Uganda trailed after Moses Oloya and Habib Kavuma had both their kicks saved by Ndori but subsequently Rwanda’s Emery Bayisenge and Eric Gasana saw their efforts repulsed by Abby Dhaira to crown the Cranes winners.
From the onset Rwanda played well neutralising Uganda’s power and speed approach with the Amavubi Stars brilliant in their passing game while maintaining discipline in defence.
On 51 minutes, Jean-Claude Iranzi found Kagere with a perfect pass on the left flank and the delightful finisher approached Dhaira from the edge of the box then beat him with a low shot to the far post.
Uganda, were content on peppering the Rwandese box at every opportunity, looking dangerous from set plays and on 73 minutes, Sula Matovu struck the crossbar with a sumptuous volley after Ndori punched a Kavuma free-kick back to play.
Four minutes later, another Kavuma free-kick had Ndori scrambling while coming to claim the ball and Oloya was on hand to punish the Wasps with a half-volley to bring the sides level at 1-1.
The defender somersaulted in celebration but barely a minute after the restart; Oloya and his backline colleagues saw blue when Kagere bamboozled Kavuma and Isinde with exquisite skill before firing a low left foot shot to the bottom right.
Amazingly, Uganda were level again a minute later with a set-piece once again undoing the Rwandese. A corner was floated in the box and Karekezi, who has led his side by example by scoring five goals in the run-up to the final, registered his name in the score sheet with the ignominy of an own-goal.
Initially, defender Hamisi Kiiza claimed the effort after his pressure compelled the captain to head the ball goal wards with Rwanda’s defence all at sea from the delivery.
In extra time, both teams came close to netting what would have been a winner but Ndori and Dhaira ensured they would settle the match by making a string of nail biting saves.
And so the lottery of penalties was called upon to separate the sides that none deserved to lose and Ndori first came up with heroics to save Oloya’s effort after Isinde had scored Uganda’s first with Kagere replying for Rwanda.
Haruna Niyonzima put Rwanda 2-1 up and the Cranes looked buried when Ndori guessed correct to repulse Kavuma’s tame spot-kick.
However, a long run-up ended with Emery Bayisenge striking the bottom right post with Dhaira diving the long way and the let-off was the queue for the Cranes keeper to etch his names in the headlines and Senior Challenge folklore.
Kiiza, under pressure to bring his side back in the match just managed to beat Ndori’s despairing dive who had once again, made the collect call.
Then Dhaira stepped up to stop Eric Gesana’s week penalty and after Andrew Mwesingwa had put the Cranes 3-2 up, the Uganda custodian then turned away Peter Kagabo’s hurried efforts to cue celebrations in Dar and Kampala.
This was the final the tournament that has put paid the notion that East African teams are sitting ducks in the continent deserved.
Sudan 1 Tanzania Mainland 0
Before the enthralling decider Sudan edged outgoing champions Tanzania Mainland 1-0 to win the bronze medal.
Mohammed Shaikh Eldin scored the winner with a stunning striker six minutes from time to settle an entertaining encounter.
Tanzania went closest on 76 minutes with Mwinyi Kazimoto rattling the upright with the keeper beaten.
Then came the defining moment as Eldin, who had come as a substitute for the injured Amir Suleiman collected a pass from the midfield and arrowed a powerful shot into the far corner from 25 yards.
Kenya will host the next edition of the event with pressure on Harambee Stars to raise their game to the level witnessed in Tanzania in less than a year to redress another embarrassing first round exit.
The spot-kick sequence
1.[Uganda] Isaac Isinde,
2.[Rwanda] Meddie Kagere
3.[U] Moses Oloya (saved)
4.[R] Haruna Niyonzima
5.[U] Habib Kavuma (saved)
6.[R] Emery Bayisenge (struck post)
7.[U] Hamisi Kiiza
8.[R] Eric Gasana (saved)
9.[U] Andrew Mwesigwa
10.[R] Peter Kagabo (saved).