KAMPALA, Uganda, Dec 11 – A strong second half performance saw hosts Uganda Cranes beat Eritrea 2-0 and progress to the semi-finals of the 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup, joining defending champions Kenya who were the first to qualify on Tuesday.
A long range shot from Nicholas Kasozi and a penalty scored by Mustafa Kiiza saw the Cranes pick their third win of the Championship and are assured of finishing top of Group A and will face the team which finishes second from Group B.
If Kenya fails to beat Zanzibar on Saturday, then there might be an early final before the final, but a win for Stars against the islanders will mean they also top the group and will meet the second placed team from Group A.
Eritrea are on three points and face second placed Djibouti on the final match day on Friday and victory there will see them book an appointment against Kenya. Djibouti will however progress if they avoid defeat to the Eritreans.
Uganda coach Johny McKinstry made a wholesome change to his squad, swapping all but two of his regular starters. Only skipper Halid Lwaliwa and left back Mustafa Kiiza were retained in the starting team.
Having picked a shock 1-0 win over Burundi in the opening game, Eritrea knew that a wi against the home side would be a sure bet to the semi finals and they were relentless in their hunt.
Uganda kept early possession with Muzamiru Mutyaba’s early shot from range going just wide.
Eritrea were direct in their approach and whenever they won the ball, they swung into attack. They had a chance in the 22nd minute but Filmon Semere’s header from a Robel Teklemichael cross was tipped over by keeper Joel Mutakubwa.
Seven minutes later, Teklemichael played a brilliant through ball to Ali Ibrahim but keeper Mutakubwa was quick off his line to save the one on one effort.
On the half hour mark, Uganda had another opportunity when Karim Watambala dribbled his way to the edge of the box but his eventual shot went inches wide.
At the stroke of half time the Red Sea boys should have gone 1-0 up but Deyben Hintseab’seffort at chipping over the keeper from the edge of the area went over when he had acres of space ahead of him to prod forward and shoot.
In the second half though, Uganda came back a better side.
They went ahead just 12 minutes in when Kasozi’s shot from range slipped through the keeper’s fingers and into the net.
They made it 2-0 in the 78th minute when Kiiza stepped up to score from the spot after his freekick from the edge of the box was handled by the wall.
Five minutes from full time, they should have been 3-0 up with four minutes left but Joakim Ojera blasted his shot wide with a gaping goalmouth from Kiiza’s cross.