Substitute Derrick Kakooza’s ice cold 88th minute penalty handed Uganda a 2-1 victory over hosts Mauritania at the Stade de Olympique in Nouakchott on Saturday as the CECAFA region debutants progressed to the quarter finals of the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.
Both sides needed victory to assure passage to the last eight, but it was Uganda who would pick the ultimate prize coming from behind to win the tie and seal second spot. The host nation will now have to wait till the final round of Group C matches to know if they progress as one of the two best third placed teams.
The Mauritanians went ahead in the first half via a Silly Sanghare penalty before Uganda equalized on the hour mark through Steven Sserwadda. Kakooza would then step off the bench to calmly slot a late penalty for his second goal of the tournament.
Despite dominating for most spells of the opening half and creating numerous scoring chances, Uganda went to the break trailing via a Sanghare penalty.
The Hippos did everything right in the opening half but score and were duly punished for their poor execution of chances. Mauritania’s star man Oumar Mbareck who had been quiet for most of the match was brought down inside the area by Abdu Azizi Kayondo with eight minutes left.
The fleet footed winger picked the ball inside the box before switching to his lethal left foot and Kayondo duly tripped him as he prepared to pull the trigger.
Sanghare stepped up to the pressure plate and struck his spot kick into the roof of the net to give the home side a valuable lead.
Uganda felt hard done by the goal as they were the better side all through.
Ivan Asaba was the dangerman for the CECAFA champions with his movement on the left causing all sorts of problems to the Mauritanians and within the opening nine minutes of the match he had already been fouled four times.
He had two chances to score, first his shot from the left after some good play on the right saw 10 slap in a cross, but it was too weak with the keeper easily collecting.
He had another effort with a long range freekick in the 20th minute, but once again couldn’t get some good power behind the ball, the keeper making a meal of it.
The Ugandans continued to pile in the pressure, but poor decisions in the final third cost them goal scoring chances.
They however came off the break determined to right their wrongs and it took them just quarter of an hour in before they drew level. A good move on the right saw Steven Sserwadda break into the box and hit a low shot that ended in the bottom right corner.
But Mauritania gave an equally good account of themselves despite seeing their lead erased and came close 10 minutes later when Sanghare pinched the ball off Gavin Kizito on the right but his final shot was well saved by the keeper.
Coach Mauril Njoya made changes, Mbareck coming off to a standing ovation despite being put under close watch by the Ugandans and in his place came El Mami Tetah. The Ugandans also made changes, Ivane Eyamu and Najib Yiga coming on for Asaba and Richard Basangwa.
Uganda almost stole the lead with 10 minutes left when Samuel Ssenyonjo played Yiga through, but the latter’s shot was blocked.
The East Africans however kept the fight and won a penalty three minutes to time after the Mauritanian backline handled the ball inside the box as they tried to defend a corner. Substitute Kakooza stepped up to convert for what would be the winning goal.
What they said:
Man of the match, Uganda defender Abdu Azizi Kayondo
As a team we are very delighted to qualify for the quarter finals.
We knew it was going to be a tough match but we played with a lot of discipline and took the instructions from the coach with a lot of seriousness. We also worked hard and played together as a team because we knew we would be facing a very tough Mauritania side.
Everyone worked hard for this win from the technical bench to the players and this led to the good performance in the match today. I am also so excited to win this man of the match award and I believe now I need to work hard to win more.
Uganda coach Morley Byekwaso
I am really thankful and I feel honoured to have seen the team qualify. Today’s game was very tough because Mauritania have showed that they are a good team in this tournament and they play fast and entertaining football.
We analysed them from how we saw them play their first two matches and we knew they press high and the only way to beat them was to play the balls directly to our strikers. It worked well because we put them under pressure.
Mauritania coach Mauril Njoya
I feel really sad because we couldn’t qualify today. We gave in a good fight on the pitch and I am pleased with my players. We had some small mistakes that cost us the game and I think this was a bit due to inexperience.
We have a very young team and most are playing at this tournament for the first time. But we showed that we are a good team and now I am only hoping that the other results go our way and we can continue in this tournament.