KAKAMEGA, Kenya, Dec 4- CECAFA Senior Challenge defending champions Uganda Cranes started their title defense on a slow after being held to a goalless draw by Burundi in the opening Group B match at the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega on Monday afternoon.
The Burundians executed a perfect strategy to defend in numbers and attack on the counter especially in the second half when the game picked up in pace a bit.
Apart from Timothy Awany’s 39th minute disallowed goal, the first half didn’t provide much excitement infront of goal as both teams failed to create meaningful scoring opportunities.
The only shot on target in the entire opening 45 minutes was Katterega’s shot from range which sailed comfortably into Burundi goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana’s arms.
Uganda had the first opportunity at goal and it came as late as the 24th minute when Derrick Nsibambi’s header from a Milton Kalisa freekick from the left sailed over the bar.
Six minutes later, Burundi attempted their luck at goal from a counter attack. Shaban Hussein’s shot from an Abdul Razak Fiston through pass was blocked by Bernard Muwanga while skipper Peierre Kwizera’s follow up shot was way wide.
Six minutes to the break, Uganda thought they had broken the deadlock when Awany rose at the backpost to connect a Kalisa freekick into the net, but referee Peter Waweru whistled for a foul inside the box as Awany went for the header.
After the break, it was Burundi who came back more determined, seeking to kill off the game early. Fiston had two chances in close succession.
Three minutes in, he found shooting space from the left, but his shot was feeble, trickling wide. Two minutes later, he had an even better chance, this time his acrobatic attempt from a Laudit Mavugo cross ending up awry, failing to have a meaningful connection to the ball.
On the other end, Uganda also tried to show they were in for business with Muzamiru Muutyaba striking a wonderful shot from the edge of the box after twisting away from his marker but the Burundian keeper reacted with an equally fine save.
Three minutes later, Kwizera made a great sliding tackle to hack the ball away from the box after Kalisa had won a header at the far post off a Katterega cross to play the ball back into the area for Nsibambi to strike.
Uganda head coach Moses Basena then made changes, Katterega and Tadeo Lwanga going off for Hood Kaweesa and Nelson Ssekantuka. Kalisa was also later offloaded for Paul Mucereezi, all changes geared towards improving the attack.
It was Burundi who almost grabbed the lead in the 68th minute when Fiston was put through by Shassir Nahimana, but the former Sofapaka man blasted his shot wide from the right.
Five minutes later, Fiston once again turned provider, putting Shabaan Hussen through but the forward took too much time with the ball allowing the Ugandan defense to track back and cover.
Three minutes from time, Nico Wadada cleared from the line after Tresor Ndikumana tapped goalward a corner from skipper Kwizera which was missed by everyone in the box.
Burundi will next play Ethiopia on Thursday while Uganda will be up against South Sudan Friday.