NAIROBI, December 3- Harambee Stars conquerors, Rwanda and record 13-time champions, Uganda will vie for the 2015 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup trophy on Saturday after penalty shootout wins over battling Sudan and hosts Ethiopia.
Rwanda who dumped out titleholders Stars on Tuesday 5-3 on post-match penalties, reached the decider after out-firing Sudan 4-2 after extra-time following a dramatic 1-1 draw in the first semi at Addis Ababa National Stadium.
Next up, Uganda Cranes who have recovered from a 2-0 opening day defeat to Kenya were stretched to the full distance by the dogged hosts in front of a capacity crowd in a barren stalemate before they wrought heartache on Ethiopia by out-gunning them 5-3 on spot kicks.
“Maybe I bring the luck of the Irish to this group. It was a very tough game. To go 1-0 behind in extra time can kill the confidence but our players kept going and got that equaliser. We are trying to put that fighting spirit into these young players and you saw that today,” the beaming Rwanda Northern Irish coach, Johnny McKinstry gushed after the Wasps nailed their place in the trophy match.
After a tepid opening, the match turned on its head in the 18th minute when Bakri Abdelgadir received his marching orders for an off the ball incident after both sets of players engaged in handbags following a foul on a Rwandese player.
With Sudan employing rearguard action and waiting to spring on the break, McKinstry’s side found it difficult to break down their opponents as the game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes and time added on.
With 100 minutes on the clock, the ten men went ahead when tournament leading scorer, Atahir Eltahir scored the opener but Jean Baptise Mugiraneza forced the game to penalties when he levelled ten minutes later.
By then, the numbers on the field had evened up after substitute Isaie Songa came on for Rwanda and was then handed a straight red barely a minute after his introduction for a professional foul.
That was quickly forgotten when Rwanda showed the same kind of clinical accuracy from the spot that overwhelmed Stars when Haruna Niyonzima, Jacques Tuyisenge, Djihad Bizimana and Ernest Sugira netted with their keeper, Eric Ndayishimiye saved Atahir’s effort with Mazin Shams Elfalah firing wide for Sudan.
In a well balanced play, Uganda and Ethiopia enjoyed their moments in front of goal with Cranes danger man and captain, Miya Farouk, failing to extend his scoring run during regulation and extra time despite finding himself in promising positions, but he did tuck the ball into the net from an offside position in extra time.
However, he was on hand to fire in the decisive penalty that finally ended Ethiopia’s dogged resistance with the hosts for once failing to recover from a losing position to force their way to the next phase in what would have been a dream run to the finals.
Dennis Okot, Joseph Ochaya, Muzamir Mutyaba and Isaac Muleme put the ball past Abel Mamo who was the hero in their shoot-out victory over Tanzania in the quarters.
Walia Ibex skipper Panom Gathuoth’s effort was stopped by Crane’s keeper; Ismail Watenga but Behaylu Girma, Aschalew Tamene, Eliyas Mamo and Anteneh Tesfaye kept the home side in it before Miya was presented with the chance to grab the headlines.
“I cannot smile. I need to tell you that it could either way and when you are winning like this, it’s not good to over celebrate. What I saw over 120 minutes was us creating the chances and I believe we had one genuine goal there but it was disallowed.
“It’s hard to play against an opponent where six players do not cross the halfway line and eight are behind the ball. I believe we shall try the best, we got what we wanted; to get to the finals,” Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic said before agreeing the officials made the right decision when he was shown the television replays.