QUARTER final pairings were decided on Saturday after enthralling last matches of the pool stages in an extraordinary day of the 2012 Cecafa Tusker Challenge Cup competition.
Fixtures of the day were moved to smaller grounds and the excellent surfaces of Lugogo, home of Premier league side KCC [Kampala City Council], and Wankulukuku of another top side Express, provided a welcome change from the previous wet and muddy conditions at the Nelson Mandela Stadium, Namboole since the tournament started.
The television "live" games were at Lugogo and in the first Tanzania Mainland exploded to thrash Somalia 7-0, speedster winger Mrisho Ngasa scoring a stunning five goals.
Rwanda then overpowered Eritrea 2-0 in a crucial qualification match. Dady Birori blasted in the first goal in 15 minutes and Tumaine Ntamuhanga in the 76th minute.
At Wankulukuku, both matches were stormy affairs. Burundi had already qualified but they denied Sudan going through, beating them 1-0 in a tempestuous clash. Malawi needed at least a draw against Zanzibar but won 2-0 for both teams to reach the quarters.
Tanzania Mainland were taking no chances against minnows Somalia. The Tanzanians came into the match with memories of when they played with complacency and tumbled 0-1 to the Somalis in the last Challenge Cup held in this country in 2008. The celebrated great win for Somalia was at Nakivubo Stadium.
Ngasa had his hat-trick after smashing in first half goals in 50 seconds, 23rd and 45th minutes. Then he wrapped up his act with scores in the 73rd and 74th minutes. The others were by striker John Bocco in the 26th and 42nd minutes.
As the top scorer during an entire tournament in 2008, Ngasa had five goals but, ironically, this time he had five in one game.
A fighting Somalia just could not withstand the deluge of Kilimanjaro Stars' attacks and goalkeeper Moalim Abdullahi, after conceding three goals was out with an injured knee in the 35th minute.
Muhsin Shariff Abdallah was the replacement, made some incredible saves, but still leaked in another four goals.
Enthralling quarter final games are now expected. Two will go "live" on SuperSport from Lugogo on Monday before action returns to Mandela Stadium, Namboole on Tuesday.
Match No. 20, Uganda v Ethiopia, earlier scheduled for Monday will, however, be played on Tuesday at Namboole because of the huge support of Uganda whose fans cannot be accommodated at small grounds.
Therefore at Lugogo, Monday, Rwanda, winners of Group 'C' will face Tanzania Mainland, the runners-up of Group 'B' at 2pm, and Burundi, winners of 'B', will face Zanzibar, first of two best third-placed teams [Group 'C'] at 4pm.
At Namboole on Tuesday, Kenya [runners-up Group 'A'] will play Malawi [runners-up Group 'C'] at 2pm and then Uganda [Group 'A' winners] face Ethiopia [second best third place team, Group 'A'].
Old enemies Uganda and Kenya can only meet if they go all the way to the final. The Cranes must navigate past Ethiopia before facing the winner of the Rwanda v Tanzania Mainland quarter final.
Harambee Stars, a resurgent team that has managed to go past the pool round unlike the previous year, must also first beat Malawi before facing the winner of Burundi v Zanzibar.
Somalia 0 Tanzania Mainland 7