NAIROBI, Kenya, December 2 – Uganda Cranes captain Emmanuel Okwi returned to the national team with a brace, to help the defending champions Uganda join Sudan in the quarterfinals of the GOtv Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup after Cranes dismissed the timid challenge of Eritrea 3-0 at Nairobi’s City Stadium on Monday.
Cranes dominated the entire match with Gor Mahia talisman Dan Sserunkuma combining well with Okwi and Yanga striker Kiiza Hamis to destroy the Eritrean’s defense with all the goals coming in the first half.
“I’m impressed with the results but this is not the best I expected from my team, since they have not reached my standards yet.
“The comeback of captain Okwi was a major boost to our side because he combined very well with Sserunkuma who provided all the goals.
“In the second half, the boys did not play well, they underrated Eritrea and I wanted to score more goals to top the group. I will rest some of my best players in our last match against Sudan for the quarter finals,” the Ugandan tactician Milutin Sredojevic, said after the match.
Eritrea head coach Omer Ahmed said he is now focusing their last preliminary match against Rwanda which is a must win for the team that was rocked by news that two of its players had absconded the side to have a chance of qualifying as best losers.
“We played very well especially in the second half and I’m happy with the boys since they were playing against a very experienced side,” the coach who announced he is not concerned with his players that disappeared from camp since he has the best said.
Uganda could have opened the scoring in the fifth minute through Brian Majegwa but he wasted Nico wadada’s cross with his off-target header.
Two minutes later, Kiiza had a chance to record his name on the score sheet but he failed to convert Majegwa’s cross from the right.
Sserunkuma continued to cause havoc in the Eritrean defense and this time round providing a superb pass to Okwi who tapped home to open the scores in the 10th.
Eritrea custodian Abdulahi Abdurahman was forced to make crucial saves, to deny Okwi and Sserunkuma, as he easily as the Cranes fashioned two opportunities in succession.
The Gor Mahia forward was not yet done as he won a penalty when he was hacked down by Suarfael Tesfamekal when through on goal compelling referee Thiery Nkurunziza, from Burundi to point for a spot-kick which Kiiza converted in the 20th to extend the Cranes lead.
Sserunkuma’s good move from the right wing accounted for his third assist as his pin point pass to the captain saw him notch his brace six minutes to the break.
On the stroke of half-time, Sserunkuma thought he had scored only for Abdulahi to punch the ball for a corner-kick as Uganda headed to the dressing room for the breather with a three-goal advantage.
The Red Sea Camels of Eritrea emerged for the second a different side and they managed to halt the Cranes assault without managing to get on the score sheet themselves with the final score 3-0 to the defending champions.
In the earlier kick-off, Sudanese forward Salah Ibrahim scored a cracker to see his team beat Rwanda 1-0.
The lone goal, netted in the first half was all that the Sudan side needed to top the group jointly with Uganda with six points.
In Tuesday’s fixtures, Southern Sudan plays Ethiopia before the hosts take on Zanzibar at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru with all to play for in Group A. Kenya and Ethiopia lead the group on four points with Zanzibar on three.