KILIMANJARO Stars' hopes of commanding an early progression to the quarterfinals of this year's CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup endured a setback after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Burundi in the group B duel at the Mandela Stadium in Kampala on Wednesday.
The game looked lively right from the start and Kilimajaro Stars had more close chances as compared to their opponents but the former frustratingly wasted the chances.
Stars had the best chance to find the back of the net on the seventh minute when winger, Simon Msuva, was released at the edge of Burundi's penalty area and the speedy winger controlled the ball well but then attempted a poor lob that went way over the crossbar.
Burundi then pressed forward on two occasions but their attempts hardly troubled Stars' keeper, Juma Kaseja, who was comfortable between the posts for a long spell. Kaseja, though, had to make a point blank save on the 36th minute to deny a Burundi striker that attempted to connect a free kick from the right.
Msuva had another chance to test Burundi keeper from 25 metres but the latter confidently collected the ball. Five minutes later, Stars' other slippery winger, Mrisho Ngasa, unleashed a powerful strike but his effort went over. Stars' head coach, Kim Poulsen, opted for early substitutions, in which he rested Msuva for midfielder, Amri Kiemba, in a bid to contain Burundi's midfield that had slowly began holding sway as minutes ticked by.
Kiemba quickly got into action as he had two good chances to test Burundi keeper but neither of the chances were converted. On the 39th minute, a long throw in by Stars' right fullback, Erasto Nyoni, found striker, John Bocco, inside the area and the towering striker flicked a header to Kiemba, who too went for a header that flew over.
Three minutes later, Stars stringed passes and launched a well calculated move, which ended with Kiemba attempting a fierce left footed strike that was saved by the Burundi keeper. That left the two sides settling for a barren draw at the breather.
On resumption, both sides attacked in earnest, searching for the goals and the goalkeepers had to be alert and frustrate whatever attempt that was made by either side's striking forces. On the 49th minute, Burundi's pressure helped them win a penalty, in which the side's winger and skipper, Selemani Ndikumana, was felled by Stars' defender, Shomari Kapombe, as the former was speeding to the box.
Ndikumana then stepped up to take the spot kick and expertly sent Kaseja the wrong way to register the opener for Burundi, while Kapombe had to be stretched off as he looked to have picked a serious injury following the contact with Ndikumana. Coach Poulsen then substituted Kapombe for Idrissa Rashid.
Stars then relentlessly pushed upfront in search of an equalizer but were frustrated by a determined Burundi defence. On the 81st minute, The Tanzanians came close to levelling matters when a Burundi defender made a goal line clearance to deny Bocco, who had connected a long pass by Kiemba with a header inside the area.
Kaseja twice came to Stars' rescue when he saved close range attempts by Burundi strikers before Bocco had another glorious chance on the 90th minute, when he attempted a diving header but Burundi keeper parried it. Burundi, for that matter, became the group B's first team to qualify for the quarterfinals as they have collected six points from two wins.
The team opened its campaign by trouncing Somalia 5-1 last Sunday. In the group's other match played at the same venue earlier in the afternoon, Somalia kissed the tournament goodbye after conceding a 1-0 defeat to Sudan. Somalia, who suffered a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Burundi in their opening match on Monday, have ultimately conceded six goals to see their hopes of maintaining their presence go up in smokes.
Meanwhile, Zanzibar Heroes again take to Group C action today when they face group leaders Rwanda's Amavubi. Zanzibar, who drew their opener with Eritrea goalless on Monday, will need nothing but victory to remain in contention for a place in the quarterfinal stage. The Amavubi Stars dismissed Malawi with a commanding 2-0 victory on Monday and they need just a draw today to confirm their place in the last eight stage.