Nairobi — Zanzibar Heroes came from a goal down to stun Tanzania Mainland's Kilimanjaro Stars 2-1 in a tense Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup group A match at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos on Thursday.
Himid Mao struck Kilimanjaro Stars ahead in the 29th minute, but a goal apiece from substitute Kassim Suleiman and Ibrahim Hamad handed the Heroes a crucial win that sails them top of the group on six points.
Elsewhere, Burundi beat Ethiopia 4-1 in a Group B clash in Kakamega county while Rwanda battled to a goalless draw with Libya.
"The first half was a bit difficult for us but we came back psychologically upright to fight for three points," an elated Zanzibar Heroes coach Hemed Morocco said.
"The boys played in accordance with my instructions and ensured they converted the chances created," he added.
His Kili Stars counterpart Ammy Ninje was angered with his boys' lapse in concentration that cost them.
"We started well but the boys didn't show the kind of desire and character like the opponents, especially in the second half," Ninje said.
"Football is not about skills but the spirit and efforts you put in on the pitch. They (Zanzibar) fought to win and that's what made the difference," an angry Ninje said.
Ninje made two changes from the team that played to a 0-0 draw against Libya on Sunday. Himid Mao and Daniel Lyanga replaced Ibrahim Hajib and Mbaraka Abed in the midfield.
Zanzibar made a single change in the team that beat Rwanda 3-1 on Monday benching Suleiman Kassim for Hamad Makame.
The Heroes had a better start and would have taken the lead in the 16th minute but Ibrahim Hamad failed to convert Issa Juma's precise cross from the right flank.
This happened eight minutes after Kilimanjaro Stars had been forced to an early change after Kelvin Yondan was stretchered off the pitch with an injury. Boniface Maganga replaced him.
In the 21st minute, Hamad's hard shot from close range was easily picked by Aishi Manula in Kili Stars' post off a well floated in cross from Haji Mngwali.
As Zanzibar's efforts push for an opener faded, their opponent settled in the match to take the lead through Captain Himid Mao who planted a low shot to the bottom of the corner.
A rejuvenated Zanzibar side came back to chase for an equaliser. Ibrahim Hamad failed to beat Manula in a one against one situation chance in the 58th minute but got the leveler in the 67th minute. through substitute Kassim Suleiman.
Suleiman, who scored against Rwanda had replaced Yahya Mudathir in the 59th minute.
Zanzibar's desire and unending surge continued in the second half resulting to the winner in the 79th minute through Ibrahim Hamad who finished off a precise cross from Suleiman.
They sustained Tanzania pressure to hold onto the lead that takes them at the top of the group ahead of Kenya match on Saturday.