The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya/Uganda: Stars Far From Dimmed

Kenyans return heads held high despite shooting themselves in the foot in Uganda

Kenya's Harambee Stars return home with theads held high despite yet again failing to get past the Uganda Cranes juggernaut hosts scored a last minute goal to beat Kenya 2-1 in the Cecafa Challenge Cup.

The victory meant Uganda defended the cup and Stars were denied an opportunity to end their ten year wait to win the regional title.

Two unforntuante own goals from Anthony Kimani and Joakins Atudo gave the Ugandans the trophy while Edwin Lavatsa became the first recent Kenyan player to score past the Uganda keeper Hamza Muonge.

"I am proud of the players.We are happy with the performance of the team throughout the tournament. I want to challenge the federation to concentrate on age group teams -under 23 and 17 for the sake of the future of the national team" said Stars James Nandwa who coached the Kenyan team in Uganda.

Uganda took the lead in the 27th minute when Robert Ssentongos' cross was directed past the Kenyan goalkeeper Duncan Ochieng by skipper Kimani. The Stars defence had by then been diminished by the injury to David Owino which forced Nandwa to reshuffle his pack to accommodate Kevin Omondi;

"I am in a lot of pain. I pulled my hamstring and it does not look good" cried Owino who had been the bedrock of the Kenyan defence in Kampala.

Meanwhile pomp and colour marked the conclusion of the tournament. Just before kickoff traditional dancing groups entertained the almost 40,000 fans who made their way to the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Namboole.

Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekadi, Kenyan Sports minister Ababu namwamba, FKF chairman Sam Nyamweya, Cecafa president Leodegar Tenga and secretary general Nicholas Musonye were among the dignitaries who watched Cranes emerge victorious to hand coach Bobby Williamson a winning tally to four titles in five years.

"The Kenyan team and their Ugandan counterparts showed that football standards in the region have improved and I am even more happy with the Kenyan squad because they have showed the true spirit of champions and deserved to finish as winners," said Namwamba.

In the third place play off Zanzibar shocked big brother Tanzanian 6-5 on post match penalties to take bronze after their second half substitute Othman Alliy had cancelled Mwinyi Kazimotos's regulation time goal.

After the last minute victory over Kenya, deafening fireworks set the stadium alight as Zanzibar, Kenya and Uganda were rewarded with their medals and cash prizes. The first team received $30,000 (Sh2.5m) while the second and third pocketed $20,000 (Sh1.7m) and $10,000 (Sh860,000) respectively.

"We are very pleased with the level of skils and fair play that was showed in the competition. We had 62 goals scored in open play which shows the attacking flair in the tournament" said Ccafa secreary general Musonye.

Uganda Cranes ran away with all the three individual awards. Brian Umony won the most valuable player award while Hamza Muonge who replaced the injured Abby Dhaira picked the golden gloves for conceding only one goal in the tournament -scored by Gor Mahia's Kenyan striker Edwin Lavatsa. Robert Ssentongo took home the golden boot award.

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