RWANDA's Amavubi Stars sent an early warning to rivals with a classic 2-0 win over guest team Malawi in the first Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup group C game played yesterday at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in Kampala.
Midfielder Jean Bapstiste Mugiraneza gave Amavubi a well deserved lead in the 37th minute, slamming home a half volley from inside a congested Malawi penalty box after excellent work by fullback Mwemere Ngirinshuti.
And captain Haruna Niyonzima, who was Man of the Match, sealed the win in the 79th minute with a sweet left foot shot from about 35 yards.
Coach Sredojovic 'Micho' Milutin, seeking to become only the second man to lead Rwanda to the regional title, set out an attack minded team and it almost paid off as early as the 8th minute but striker Jimmy Mbaraga saw his goal cancelled for offside.
Sensing that two strikers would do a better job than one, Micho replaced midfielder Jean Claude Iranzi with attacker Jerome Sina on the half hour mark and the move paid off with Mugiraneza's goal.
Sina almost made 2-0 in the second half but shot tamely at the Malawi goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation. Amavubi continued to play well and attacking with real intent but also leaving big gaps at the back to allow the Flames to probe.
Under pressure, defender Ismail Nshutiyamagara (Kodo) almost scored in his own net but goalie Jean Claude Ndoli pulled off a fine double-handed save and moments later Mbaraga, who caused all sorts of problems for the Malawi defence, missed another sitter from close range.
With the clock ticking and both teams playing an open game, Haruna stepped up and put the game beyond Malawi much to the delight of coach Micho, who celebrated like he had won a semi-final.
The Serb brought on Dady Birori for Mbaraga and the Vita Club striker almost scored with his first touch but saw his shot come off the crossbar.
Amavubi next play against Zanzibar on Thursday. A win would put them through to the quarterfinals with a game against Eritrea to spare.
In an earlier Group C game, Eritrea held Zanzibar to a barren draw. Eritrea created the first chance in the 6th minute through Ahmed Abdulrahman who shot over the bar after a good flick on.
Action continues today in Group A with South Sudan, who lost to Ethiopia 1-0 facing Kenya, who also lost to hosts Uganda. Uganda take on Ethiopia in the second game later in the evening.
Yesterday, Group C
Zanzibar 0-0 Eritrea
Rwanda 2-0 Malawi
Today, Group A
South Sudan vs Kenya
Uganda vs Ethiopia