21 August 2017

Uganda: Mental Strength Propels Cranes Into Chan After Early Wobble

Photo: The Observer
Cranes interim coach Moses Basena, second left, and his players celebrate after dumping Rwanda to qualify for 2018 Chan finals

Kigali — The 'Farmer' song played at the end of the second leg of the Chan final qualification round between Rwanda and Uganda at the Kigali Stadium was fittingly in honour of the visitors.

They had just managed to squeeze into a fourth straight finals after the 2-0 loss was not enought to better their 3-0 first leg performance at the St. Mary's Stadium the previous week.

Unlike the commanding lyrics of that Sheeba Karungi and Ykee Benda song, the Cranes had been far from dominant particularly in the opening half hour on Saturday.

The Cranes were however able to hold firm thereafter with coach Moses Basena pleased by the mental resilience shown by his team.

"I want to thank my team. They were mentally strong and we had to stomach that pressure," stated Basena in the post-match press conference.

They conceded as early as the eighth minute whenYannick Mukunzi tapped past goalkeeper Ismail Watenga before Thierry Manzi powered in a free header from a corner inside the opening 15 minutes.

"I cannot take away credit from the Rwanda team. I only blame my people where they allowed easy goals that were avoidable. They didn't construct moves to score against us. It was through set plays. We need to work on dead ball situations.

Of the back four comprising Timothy Awany and Paul Musamali, only Isaac Muleme appeared composed throughout the game with right back Nicholas Wadada uncharacteristically nervous and booked in the opening 25 minutes.

"We gave our two set plays and conceded. It is an automatic cancer. Even in Kampala we did the same," Basena further stated after seeing his side make hard work of what has now become routine qualification to the tournament reserved for players who feature in their respective countries' domestic leagues.

Kenya 2018 will be Cranes fourth straight finals qualification.

His Rwandan counterpart Antoine Hey meanwhile similarly lamented his team's failure to breakdown the Cranes after taking the early lead.

"After 2-0 they started to think. They started to change the style of play. We tried to change the style of play too played the long ball but we couldn't keep the ball upfront and we didn't have too many chances upfront.

Despite the early Rwanda aggression, the Cranes did have their chances too with Shafik Kagimu foiled by goalkeeper Eric Ndayishimye after being set up by Muzamir Mutyba shortly before the second goal and the latter having a shot parried.

Basena was more bemused by a failure to award his team a penalty when substitute Paul Mucureezi was tripped after dancing his way into the box much to the chagrin o the sizable Ugandan presence in the stands.

"We were supposed to hit them on the break but that didn't happen. But that penalty should have been awarded and the game would've changed," he stated.

Focus for the interim coaches Basena and Fred Kajoba quickly moves to the the World Cup Qualifier double header against Egypt in less than two weeks after.

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