The semi-final pairings of the 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup have been completed after the final round of group matches was played on Sunday evening at the Lugogo Complex in Kampala, Uganda.
Hosts Uganda Cranes were already through to the last four and after Tanzania finished second from Group B on Saturday, the first fixture had already been confirmed. On Sunday though, Eritrea picked the last available semis slot after holding Somalia to a goalless draw to finish second in Group A.
They will now square out with the defending champions Kenya on Tuesday in the early kick off, with Uganda Cranes taking on Tanzania in the evening kick off in what is expected to be a blockbuster tie.
Eritrea made it to their first ever semi-final in the Senior Challenge Cup since 1994 and they did so nervously against a determined Somalia side. The Somalis just needed victory on the final day to sneak into the last four, but Eritrea held on.
The Ocean Stars will have only themselves to blame after losing chance after chance in an entertaining match, witnessed by a full to capacity stadium.
The knocked the door early and in the 13th minute, Omar Abdulahi Ibrahim did well to skip away from his markers on the left but his shot from a tight angle rolled across the face of goal. Two minutes later, Hasan Abdinur Gesey had an opportunity but his shot from the edge of the box off an Ali Aden Muse cut back went over.
Eritrea keeper Kibrom Solumun made a brilliant save in the 25th minute to tip over a point blank header from skipper Ahmed Said after he rose up brilliantly to connect to an Abdelaziz Safimayo corner from the right.
On the other end, Somali keeper Said Aweys made two good saves.
First he went down brilliantly to block a shot from Eyob Girmay before making a brilliant one handed save a minute later to deny Ali Suleman Ibrahim’s vicious shot from inside the area.
Both teams looked to tire off in the second half. The closest anyone came to goal was via a Girmay shot from inside the box that rattled the upright.
Meanwhile, Uganda Cranes finished the group phase with an unbeaten record after thrashing Djibouti 4-1.
Muzamiru Mutyaba’s penalty kicked off things for the hosts before Joakim Ojera, Ben Ochen and Bright Anukani scored in the rampage.
Haroun Mohammed scored Djibouti’s consolation.
Mutyaba converted from the penalty spot after Mohamed Bourhan handled Paul Mbowa’s cross from the left. Keeper Innocent Mbonihaukoe was unfortunate as he initially saved the penalty, but it took a spin and rolled back across the line.
Djibouti’s best chance of the half was in the 41st minute when Hassan Moussa’s overhead kick forcing Cranes keeper Joel Mutakubwa to a brilliant one handed save.
In the second half, Uganda took control of the game with Ojera sweeping a low ball under the keeper from the right just five minutes after the restart.
Djibouti pulled one back when Mohamed scrambled the ball across the line, but they didn’t go the full length of the comeback.
Ochen made it 3-1 after tapping home at the backpost after the Djibouti keeper failed to properly punch away a cross from substitute Allan Okello. Anukani scored the fourth for his second goal of the tournament, finishing off Ochen’s cross, barely two minutes after coming on for Patrick Kasozi.
What they said:
Eritrea coach Efrem Haile:
Our focus was on qualifying and I am pleased we achieved that. This year at the Under-20 tournament we also achieved a semi-final and this is a great thing for us in the Senior Challenge because most players now were part of that team. We will go and give a good account of ourselves.
Somalia coach Bashir Hayford:
For me this was a good run for the team. What has ailed us throughout is that we lacked a proper striker because we create so many chances but fail to score. But I am happy because we are building up Somalia football and this tournament gave us a platform to do that.
Uganda coach Jonathan McKinstry:
We changed the team once again and I am happy that the players took the challenge well. We have used all our players in the four games and at least every player has clocked 180 minutes which is an average of two games. This will make sure everyone is fresh for the knockout round.
Djibouti coach Julien Mette:
These are tough challenges that we needed as a team because these are young players who we are trying to build in terms of confidence and experience. We have played four games and lost to two very good teams. There are times we should have done better but we take the lessons.