BUJUMBURA, Burundi, December 17 – Christophe Nduwarugira netted the crucial goal as Burundi took a 1-0 lead over Harambee Stars in the first leg of their Africa Home Nations Championships clash in Bujumbura.
The LLB Académic Bujumbura midfielder pounced in the 28th minute to score the deciding goal ahead of the second leg that will be played in Nairobi on January 5.
The Burundian players had a better understanding of each other, the benefits of match practice during their four- match Challenge Cup sojourn in Kampala evident.
Stand-in coach James Nandwa believes the deficit can be overtaken: “The loss is a setback, but not a major one. I am happy with the way the boys played and am confident we can overcome Burundi in the return match,” he said.
Kenya are under pressure after leading football official Omondi Aduda laid a challenging marker for the team — telling them his expectation was victory in the CHAN final when South Africa host the tournament.
“Our ambition is to ensure — if we do not make it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil — that we lift the African Nations Championship trophy. That is the expectation we have,” said Aduda.
The overall winners face Sudan next June and July in the first round of a competition restricted to footballers playing in their country of birth, and qualifiers are staged regionally.
Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mauritania, Mauritius and Mozambique advanced to the next qualifying phase after eliminating Togo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Comoros Islands and Seychelles respectively.
Simplice Yameogo scored six minutes from time after a defensive mix-up in Lome to earn Burkina Faso a 1-0 win against Togo after taking a 2-1 advantage into the second leg.
Guinea must have feared the worst having been held goalless at home by Sierra Leone, but they drew 1-1 in Freetown to squeeze through on the away-goal rule. Nabe Keita put the visitors ahead and Seray Jah equalised in the final minute.
Mauritania also completed a double by winning 2-1 at home over Liberia with El Mamy Traore converting a late penalty after Mohamed Yacoub had put the home team ahead and Mohamed Varney levelled.
Mauritius forced a 0-0 draw on the Comoros to retain a two-goal lead from the first enco
During the match, Kenya were disjointed. Even though a Kenya XI reached the final of the Challenge Cup losing 1-2 to Uganda, it was a different outfit that was assembled for the CHAN tie.
Initially, French coach Henri Michel, who showed no interest in the Challenge Cup and declined to participate, purportedly remained in Nairobi training a CHAN side to face Burundi.
Then he made a last-minute disappearance from the scene, abandoning the side and for it to be taken up by James Nandwa, the local coach who guided Kenya in the Challenge Cup.
Nandwa added five players to bolster the “Michel side” that flew to Bujumbura with no match practice.