Eritrea and Somalia picked up wins in the penultimate Group A matches of the 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup on Friday to set up what will be an explosive final match between the two sides in the final round of group games on Sunday in Kampala.
The Shoremen of the Red Sea thrashed Djibouti 3-0 in the early kick off while in the evening tie, Somalia beat a below-par Burundi side 1-0, handing them a fourth straight loss in the tournament.
The results now mean Eritrea remain second in the group with six points while Somalia are third with four points. The two meet on Sunday and whoever wins the tie will assure themselves of a slot in the last four.
Only Uganda is assured of a semi-final slot from the group having won all their opening three games of the tourney.
They face Djibouti on the final day on Sunday and will be under no pressure. Djibouti who are also on four points have a mathematical chance of making the semis, but only if they beat Uganda convincingly and hope Eritrea fail to win against Somalia.
Somalia is eyeing a place in the semis for the first time in their CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup history. Friday’s victory was only their seventh in the competition since 1973.
Omar Abdullahi Mohammed’s well taken goal in the 43rd minute was all they needed for the win. The forward swung in a beautiful volley on the first take from 20 yards out, catching the entire Burundi backline napping.
They had played with discipline, keeping possession and trying to open up the Burundi backline with their swift passing. The Swallows were restricted in their chances, the closest they came being a header from Elphase Ndayisenga off a Jean Claude Ndarusanze cross which was well saved by keeper Said Aweys Ali.
The shot-stopper did well again midway through the second half to parry away a well struck effort from distance by Ndarusanze.
Despite pressure in the final minutes, Somalia held on for the victory, much to the delight of the hundreds of fans who had thronged the Lugogo Complex to cheer on the team.
It was the same case in the first match where Eritrea was more clinical and determined in their quest. The Eritreans are playing their first Senior Challenge Cup tournament since 2012 and are looking to get into the last four for the first time since 1994.
Isayas Abreham gave Eritrea the lead inside 11 minutes with a neat finish from close range, taking advantage of some poor defending from the Djibouti backline. They came close once again when Mubarek Khelifa broke away on the right but his ferocious shot was saved by the keeper and Robel Kidane heading the rebound wide.
In the second half, Eritrea kept their dominance and they were 2-0 up after 68 minutes when Ali Suleman Ibrahim scored the first of his two when he dribbled inside the box to slot the ball low into the left after Khelifa’s cross from the right was half-heartedly cleared.
Six minutes from time, he completed his brace, once again thanks to some schoolboy defending from Djibouti. Suleman picked the ball inside the area after Djibouti lost possession under no pressure before shooting past the keeper.
What they said:
Somalia coach Bashir Hayford:
We played with heart against a very tough Burundi side. This is a massive victory for us and it shows that we are growing as a team. Now we have to go and face Eritrea and play to the best of our ability to win and progress to the semis.
Burundi coach Olivier Niyungeko:
It is such a pity to leave the tournament without winning a single game. We brought in a squad of local based players to this tournament but now it has showed us that we are way behind and we have a lot of work to do.
Eritrea coach Efrem Haile:
We played very good football today and we were more clinical. It is the first time in 25 years that we might qualify for the semis and this will give us motivation heading into the final game of the group on Sunday.
Djibouti coach Julien Mette:
Today, it is an embarrassment for us and the biggest defeat since I came in. We did not play well today and we made silly mistakes. The experienced players were not at their best today and it is them who are expected to guide the young ones. I am disappointed.