New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda/Malawi: Zanzibar, Malawi Win As Group C Remains Open

KAMPALA - Group C remains wide open for qualification into the last eight of the Cecafa Tusker Challenge Cup following victories for Zanzibar and Malawi Thursday evening.

The day ended with Zanzibar climbing to the top of the group after a dramatic 2-1 win over Rwanda. Rwanda, who were on top, are now only in second place in front of Malawi by goal difference.

Eritrea - previously in third - plunged to rock-bottom after suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Malawi earlier on Thursday.

A place in the quarter finals is now up for grabs for all the teams in this open group, and the scramble should only see the competition get even tighter and every team work twice, or many more times harder.

The Rwandans will not be sure whether they should blame themselves, or the soggy turf, for letting three points slide away. But what is certain is that the wet weather over the last few days has taken its toll on the playing field of Namboole Stadium.

It had looked like the two Thursday games would be called off after an afternoon downpour that messed up the turf. But then, the games were played as scheduled. And sure enough, the players struggled dealing with the situation from beginning to end.

A horrific error by Rwanda's goal stopper Jean-Claude Ndoli six minutes into the first half cost his side an early goal. The APR FC keeper will definitely not wish to watch replays of that goal, where he swept his leg over a rolling ball, allowing Zanzibar's Khamis Mcua Khamis to fire home the opener.

The two sides had to play against another obstacle throughout the 90 (and four added) minutes of play - the wet pitch. They had to play twice as hard to get the ball around, and the wiser players more often than once opted for the more aerial balls. On the boggy surface, accurate ground passing was clearly a near impossibility.

Even still, first goal scorer Khamis netted another for his side when he sliced home a pass that had found him in a precariously good position, thanks to lax defending from the Rwandan back.

Rwanda's 80th minute goal by Birori reignited some sense of belief for an equalizer, to say the least. And that feeling seemed to grow at the expense of the Zanzibar side when two corner kicks in added time got the winning side panicky but in the end, the Rwandans were unlucky as the damage had been caused.

What the coaches said:

Rwanda's head coach Milutin Sredojevi admitted the weather had its effect on his players. "Our opponents [Zanzibar] adjusted to the conditions better than we did."

"Sometimes you go two steps forward, and other times, two steps back. We need to regroup and come back hard against Eritrea on Saturday."

Zanzibar's coach hailed his team for their determination on the pitch. "I am happy that they worked hard."

Thursday results:

Malawi 1 Eritrea 0

Rwanda 1 Zanzibar 2

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