Zanzibar Heroes booked a date with Kenya’s Harambee Stars in the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup final set for Machakos Sunday after beating 10-man cup holders Uganda Cranes 2-1 at the Moi Stadium in Kisumu yesterday.
The defeat was too bitter a pill to swallow for Cranes who conceded a 57th minute penalty besides having their utility defender Joseph Nsubuga sent off, which all but ended their hopes of clinching their 15th regional title.
Both teams were locked at one-all before Nsubuga tagged a goal-bound Heroes striker Ibrahim Hamid Ahmada inside the box with Zanzibar earning a penalty with Mtibwa Sugar star Mohammed Issa Banka taking the onus to send Cranes goalkeeper Ismael Watenga the wrong way.
Despite missing injured Mwinyi Hassan Mngwali, Zanzibar had the audacity to take the lead in the 22nd minute when Abulaziz Makame cleverly slotted in from a beautiful corner kick taken by Ibrahim Ahmed. The goal stung Cranes into action and persistent attacks by Muzamiru Mutyaba, Nicholas Wadada and Milton Karisa and Derrick Nsibambi would result into the equalizer in the 28th minute.
The goal came about when Allan Kyambadde made his way past a cluster of Heroes defenders and squared the ball to Nsibambi whose rocket shot from about 15 metres out went past Abdulrahman Mohammed between Zanzibar posts.
Moments later, Cranes defender Wada made his trademark over-lapping but was few seconds late to pull the trigger despite his markers Yayha Abbas and Ibrahim Mohammed being left at sea.
Zanzibar’s Kassim Selembe was the next to misfire in the 35th minute when his effort was saved by Watenga as the match turned physical which saw Makame and teammate Faisal Salum and Adeyum Ahmed earn yellow cards for dangerous play.
Cranes coach Moses Basena then introduced ex-AFC Leopards midfielder Allan Kateregga and Nelson Ssenkatuka for Mutyaba and Kyambadde in a move that added impetus in the team’s attack. Katerrega was unlucky not to score from a half volley off Hood Kaweesa’s cross in the 59th minute as Zanzibar resorted to wasting time.
Zanzibar also had their chances in the dying minutes with the closest coming from Mudathir Yahya whose shot was scrambled to safety by Allan Madoi. Leopards will be seeking for improved fortunes after they were stunned 2-0 by Nzoia Sugar in Mumias last Wednesday.