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Cranes make TZ Uhuru celebrations ‘half boring’

Saturday: Tanzania Vs Sudan (1:30pm), Uganda Vs Rwanda (3:30pm)

Emmanuel Okwi played his best game in this tournament.

The Uganda Cranes will obviously be the major topic in Tanzania this Friday as natives gather to celebrate 50 years of independence. The long awaited celebrations got tainted yesterday when the home team lost 3-1 to a more focused Ugandan side in the last semi final of this year’s Cecafa Tusker challenge cup. Rwanda had earlier dumped Sudan 2-1 in the first semi.

Both semi-finals were classics, Rwanda outpointing Sudan and Uganda, in the end, draining the energy out of Tanzania Mainland to win 3-1 in extra time. Therefore, on Saturday, Uganda will meet Rwanda in the Finals. It will be Rwanda’s fifth Final, their sole title so far having come in the inaugural one at home in 1999 when their “B” side [they had entered two] thrashed Kenya 3-1. Uganda looks for a 12th title since 1973. Mrisho Ngassa exploited his supreme pace to give Tanzania Mainland the lead after 18 minutes; chasing a long ball into no-man’s land to punish a stranded goalie Abby Dhaira.

Serumaga took a corner headed home by Mwesigwa but he later got a yellow card prompting the coach to substitute him. Dhaira wanted to play his acrobatic skills by chest-controlling the ball that went   down  through his armpit as he dramatically stretched the hands. Mrisho ran fast behind him to push the ball into the net. Half time ended 1-0 but in the 56 minute, Cranes Captain Andrew Mwesigwa rose up above a bemused defender Shaban Nditi and powerfully headed in a beautiful equalizer from a corner taken by Mike Serumaga.

The 90 minutes ended 1-1 before Uganda, who had been let off the hook on three occasions, ran away with victory, confirmed by a great goal from substitute Emmanuel Okwi and a penalty by Cranes defender Isaac Isinde. Both sides started the game with intent, Ngassa testing the Cranes ‘keeper Dhaira and Hamisi Kiiza giving Juma Kaseja in the Tanzania goal some work when he met Sula Matovu’s cross from the left in opening exchanges. The Matovu-Kiiza combination seem to have worked well in these last two games.

But Tanzania started to take care of proceedings. First Juma Jabu escaped Mwesigwa’s marking with the goalkeeper to beat but shot over. The alarm bells continued ringing for the Uganda defence and the door had to yield to Tanzanian’s early pressure. The 90 minutes couldn’t however produce a winner, just like last year, and extra time had to be called on by the Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema.

Shaban Nditi will rue contributing the miss of the tournament when he inexplicably headed off the line with Dhaira at sea before again firing wide a minute later. Okwi should have punished the Tanzanians on the other end but Kaseja, for the umpteenth time thwarted him. But when Simeon Masaba crossed from the right, Okwi jumped highest in the 102nd minute to head past Kaseja for a 2-1. Isaac Isinde sealed the win with a well taken penalty in the 110th minute.

In the first semi final, only the veteran ‘captain marvel’ Olivier Karekezi could have forced the decider of this cliff-hanger. His spectacular goal 12 minutes from time knocked the breath out of Sudan. Karekezi controlled the ball, forced himself free from tight double-marking in the six-yard box to beat Sudan goalie Elmoiz Mahgoub from the narrowest of angles at the left near post. Rwanda had taken a first half lead through Jean-Claude Iranzi before Ramadhan Agab equalized in the second half.


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