Rwanda kicked off their African Youth championship campaign in style beating fancied Mali 2-1 in the opening Group A match at the overflowing Amahoro stadium in Kigali today. The Rwandese side inspired by a partisan home support were exciting throughout the action packed encounter that could have produced more goals if both teams utilised their chances well.
The home side roared on by a strong partisan crowd took the lead in the sixth minute when man-of the match Jean Mugiraneza scored with a firm header from a corner. From then on the Rwandese dictated the pace with sharp and incissive attacks that shook the Malian side.
However, against the run of play, the resilient Mali side restored the initiative when Sow Samba equalised on the 29th minute to set up a pulsating contest of two evenly balanced sides.
The second half was a see-saw showdown as both sides fought a close mid-field battle with Rwanda still having an upper hand. In the 50th minute, hard-working striker Elias Uzamukunda sent the huge crowd into a near delirium when he scored Rwanda\'s second and winning goal.
In a post match interview, Mali\'s coach Drame Djibril admitted that Rwanda was a strong side that should not be underrated. \'\'As hosts, they have started well. But we too had good opportunities to clinch the match. "it was 50-50 contest, but Rwanda carried the day,he said.
Rwandese coach Tomislav Obradovic was upbeat. He told the press. " it was a tight match. It is not easy for a home team to start with victory. But I told yoiu from the beginning that we had to win our opening match to progress in the championship". He admitted that Mali was a good team, balanced and very tactical.
Obradovic praised his team for their fighting spirit and predicted that Rwanda had launched a positive camapign that could take them to the semi finals of the 16th Edition of the AYC. He said his side had got the right attitude at the right time and morale to go all the way had been raised.
GHANA 1 CAMEROON 1
In a later match of group A, Ghana came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Cameroon in another closely fought showdown. Ghana suffered an early set-back when they conceded a first minute goal.
But they recovered on time and almost clinched the tie in the dying minutes. Cameroon shook Ghana in the first minute when Zoua Daogari Jacques swept home a right wing cross after a good run by Dauoda Haman.It appeared as if Ghana were in for a bigger surprise.
Needing to settle quickly, the Ghana side responded in style with several attacks that resulted in the equaliser in the 34th minute when man-of the-match Ayew Andrew Dede rose high to head home.
Then Ghana dominated the stage in the bruising second half when Cameroon lost their footing midway through to allow Ayew and his compatriots to dominate the midfield and create more space upfront. Ayew, the son of Abedi Pele almost clinched the winner in the 80th minute, bhut shot wide after the Cameroon defence had been overstretched.
Sylas Tetteh, coach of Ghana predicted a close finish in the group and admitted that Cameroon was a strong side. Said Tetteh "it was a tough battle. However we should have won, because we had more chances than our opponents. We shared the game and this will definitely set a close finish in the group. Tetteh said it was stressful to concede and early goal. He however praised his side for staging a dramatic fight-back to deny Cameroon.
Cameroon coach Alain Wabo admitted that Ghana was a better side. "Despite taking an early lead, Ghana dominated us and they should have clinched the game. However, Wabo predicted that the group could go to the wire if the results of the opening day is any guide.