TAIFA Stars failed to utilise the home ground advantage after being held by Rwanda's Amavubi to a 1-1 draw in the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier Central-East ZoneDominique Savio Nshuti early strike was cancelled out by Himid Mao's penalty spot few minutes before the break as the visitors held on to an important away goal.
Charged up with their recent feat at the COSAFA Cup in South Africa, many had expected Stars to choke Amavubi and to keep themselves in a comfort zone ahead of the return leg tie a week later in Kigali, Rwanda.
With the tie ending all square, it means Stars coach Salum Mayanga now faces an uphill task to defeat Amavubi at their own back yard. Stars face a must win situation or force a draw of more than one goal to enter the next stage of the qualifiers.
A barren draw will see them bundled out of the campaign, whose finals will be staged next year in Kenya. Taifa Stars have failed to make it into the finals since their debut in 2009 and Mayanga is looking for the opportunity of having another chance to appear for the second time in the 2018 finals.
Then under Brazilian tactician Marcio Maximo, Stars participated in the first CHAN tournament staged in Ivory Coast. The game came alive immediately after the kick off with Stars dominating and launching forays on their opponent's goal domain.
Wing back Shomari Kapombe made his usual probe upfront in the 14th minute, but was brought to the ground and it looked a serious injury. He was stretched off and replaced by Boniface Maganga.
However, before the changes were made, AS Kigali midfielder, Nshuti scored his debut goal for his national team Amavubi, with a close range shot to beat Taifa Stars goalkeeper Aishi Manula in the 17th minute.
Stars defenders failed to clear their lines. After conceding the goal, Stars under skipper Himid Mao somewhat lost their focus and players looked to be under heavy pressure which nearly cost the team but Rwanda failed to utilise the situation.
Slightly, Stars were keeping their nerves and started piling pressure in search for an equaliser. Their efforts paid off in the 32nd minute, when referee Alier Michael James from South Sudan pointed to the spot.
Defender Gardiel Michael's shot came off the hands of a defender. Himid Mao stepped up and converted past Amavubi skipper and first choice goalkeeper Eric 'Bakame' Ndayishimiye.
Stars kept on pressurising their opponents, looking for more goals and Boniface Maganga nearly gave Mayanga's side the lead but goalkeeper Ndayishimiye denied him the opportunity with a superb save few minute before going into the break.
After the break, both sides came back into the game a bit rejuvenated looking to get the lead. However, they hardly created clear cut chances to score. In the 51st minute, the referee was confronted by Amavubi players claiming he denied them a penalty.
Simon Msuva appeared to have handed the ball inside the box, however, Rwanda were awarded a free kick at the edge of the box, which, they wasted. In the 62nd minute, Amavubi's German tactician Antoine Hey introduced Bernabe Mubumbyi for Latif Bishira as the visitors applied delaying tactics to slow down Stars.
Stars kept on knocking Rwanda's door and in the 83rd minute, Shiza Kichuya was denied what could have been a winner after his shot nearly went into the back of net, but goalkeeper tipped it off for an abortive corner.