NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 10 – Ulinzi Stars have been left with a mountain to climb in the CAF Confederations Cup after losing 4-0 away to Egyptian side Smouha in the first leg of the first round tie at the Borg el Arab Stadium in Alexandria.
The military side will now have to win by a margin of more than five goals or 4-0 to force the game to penalties in the return fixture in Nairobi next weekend if they are to have any hopes of progressing to the second round.
A fast paced and quick pacing Smouha side broke down the soldiers who showed clear signs of hurting from lack of competitive football with the hosts being in tip top shape as their league is currently ongoing.
Ahmed Raoof opened the scoring for the hosts in the 10th minute after volleying the ball home inside the box with the Ulinzi defense caught napping.
The hosts made it 2-0 in the 20th minute, Islam Mohareb beating James Saruni with a powerful low shot after picking out a pass from Aymen Ashraf who had been causing all the danger from the left.
Ulinzi struggled to get into the game and were pinned in their own half by the hosts who played short passes in quick succession building up play to break the Ulinzi backline. The soldiers never registered a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Benjamin Nyangweso’s charges improved in the second half and seemed to have gotten some rhythm especially with the introduction of Baron Oketch for right back Sylus Shitote.
The change forced Brian Birgen who had been deployed on the right side of midfield to drop back to defense with Oketch, signed on loan from Gor Mahia joined the attack.
Islam Mohareb twice came close for the hosts, first with a shot that went inches wide with Saruni caught flat out while his second attempt was deflected for a corner.
Ulinzi were building up well, but always lacked the final ball in the attacking third. Oketch tried his luck with a shot from long range but it did little to trouble Smouha keeper Mahdy Soliman.
But the hosts were also eager to add on to their tally and Saruni was forced to make a brilliant save on the hour mark from a Hossam Hassan snap shot inside the box after twisting away from his markers.
When Ulinzi thought they were lining up for at least a goal, Smouha got the third which had initially looked to have been disallowed. Mahmoud Abdelaziz had leaped into the air to connect to a corner and seemed to have fouled Saruni in the process.
However, after consultation, the referee let the goal stand despite protests from Ulinzi Stars players.
Smouha finished off the job in the 86th minute, Mohareb scoring a superb volley after giving the ball a little lift from an Ahmed Raoof pass.