ZANZIBAR Heroes had a slow start in this year's CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup after managing a barren draw with Eritrea in the group C's opener in Kampala on Monday.
It was an action packed duel that saw both sides attack relentlessly in search of early goals but the striking forces were guilty of wasting chances.
Eritrea then looked more dangerous when pressing forward and the team used the flanks effectively to create several good chances, which however went begging. They fashioned the first chance in the 6th minute through Ahmed Abdulrahman who shot over the bar after a clever flick on.
Skipper Hermon Tecleab saw his free-kick from just outside the area fly direct at the waiting hands of Zanzibar Heroes' keeper, Mwadini Ali as Eritrea increased their attack. Ali came to his side's rescue with a couple of good saves and denied Eritrea strikers, who continued to press forward and torment Heroes' defence that was marshaled by skipper, Nadir Haroub and Aggrey Morris.
In one of Ali's early heroics, the eagle eyed shot stopper, who also turns out for Azam FC in the Mainland Premier League, rose high to collect a well taken 30 metres free kick by one of Eritrea players. Eritrea looked to have won the midfield battle as the team thwarted almost every move created by their opponents at the middle of the park but the former's profligacy in front of Heroes' goal remained the biggest let down.
Eritrea, again, put Heroes under pressure midway through the half, in which Ali was forced to make a timely save as he dived for a fierce low shot by one of Eritrea strikers from the edge of the area on the left. Heroes also had two good chances shortly before half time but promising striker, Khamis Mcha, and his fellow, Omari Isihaka, wasted the opportunities.
Eritrea keeper, Samwel Alazaar, dilly dallied with the ball inside the team's area and he was dispossessed but Heroes failed to make the most of the chance and Eritrea defenders quickly cleared the danger to see both sides settle for a barren draw at the breather.
On resumption, Heroes started promisingly and had a good chance from a corner kick but the team frustratingly fluffed the chance inside the box as the ball flew over the players and out of play. Heroes' coach, Salum Bausi, opted to make early changes in the half by resting striker, Isihaka, for Seif Rashid, Omar Hamad for Jaku Jakujoma and Ali Twaha for Abdallah Gullam respectively in an attempt to beef up the attacks.
On the 70th minute, Eritrea had what turned out to be the half's best chance for them when substitute, Alexander Daniel, was put clear on the right and whipped in a pin point cross but his two fellow strikers, who had arrived at box on time, failed to head in.
Heroes had glorious chance on the 86th minute when another good cross by Masoud found Seif Rashid inside the area and the latter chested the ball down but his finishing was poor as Eritrea keeper parried the ball over for an abortive corner kick. Eritrea will now face Malawi while Zanzibar will be up against Rwanda in their next matches to be played at the same venue on Thursday 29 November 2012.