KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 15- Zanzibar Heroes qualified for their first ever CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup final in 22 years after shocking defending champions 10-man Uganda Cranes 2-1 and book a date against Kenya’s Harambee Stars in Sunday’s final.
Mohammed Issa Juma’s penalty 10 minutes into the second half sealed Zanzibar’s place in the table of kings. The last and only time they played the final was in 1995 in Uganda when they beat the Cranes at home to lift the title.
Uganda were reduced to 10-men after substitute Joseph Nsubuga was shown a straight red card after pulling down Ibrahim Hamad inside the box after a swift counter attack.
Abdul Aziz Makame opened the scoring for Zanzibar in the 23rd minute before Uganda equalized six minutes later through Derrick Nsibambi who scored his fourth goal of the tournament.
Coming into the tie, Uganda was without two of their players Timothy Awany and Isaac Muleme who were serving one match suspensions after red cards in their final group match against Ethiopia.
Zanzibar were without left back Haji Mwinyi who was serving a one match suspension after accumulating two yellow cards while Suleiman Mohammed who has scored twice for them in the tournament missed with injury.
It was a balanced and hugely competitive opening half with both sides creating good scoring opportunities. Zanzibar asked the first questions with Adeyum Saleh’s freekick inside the first five minutes coming off the outside of the post.
In the 11th minute Nsibambi had a brilliant effort attempting a scissor kick from the edge of the six yard box when Nico Wadada’s cross from the right fell into his path unmarked.
Zanzibar opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when Makame tapped the ball home from inside the box after Uganda failed to clear a corner from Mudathir Yahya.
The islanders had won the corner after Uganda keeper Isma Watenga had done well to save a shot from Ibrahim Hamad who had stolen the ball off Geoffrey Madoi on the left.
The goal immediately bolted head coach Moses Basena into action, pulling out Sgafiq bakaki who had struggled in his first start of the tournament having been brought in for Awany. In his place, Basena brought in Joseph Nsubuga.
Four minutes on, Uganda drew level when Nsibambi side footed the ball home from the edge of the six yard box after Allan Kyambadde’s cross from the right evaded everyone inside the box.
In the second half, Uganda came back stronger but were caught up in the counter resulting in what would be Zanzibar’s winning goal.
The Cranes lost possession cheaply from a corner and Zanzibar took on a gear five counter attack, Hamad breaking away clear into the Ugandan box and was pulled down by Nsubuga when he was preparing to pull the trigger.
From the penalty, Issa struck the ball into the top left leaving keeper Isma Watenga with no chance.
Uganda had chances to equalize as they piled the pressure after going down, coach Basena bringing in Allan Katterega for Muzamiru Mutyaba.
In the 70th minute, Uganda should have drawn level. From a Kyambadde cross on the left, Nelson Ssekantuka chose to chest down the ball instead of going straight for a header, allowing Zanzibar to clear their lines.
However, the clearance did not go far, falling on Milton Karisa whose shot however blasted over. In the 83rd minute, Ssekantuka this time went for a header off a Karisa cross but it went over.
Zanzibar keeper Mohammed Abdulrahman pulled a great save two minutes from time when he leaped strongly to his left to parry away a shot from Nsibambi who had broken away on the left.