If a refreshing evening drizzle is all Burundi and Uganda needed to play passing footfall, they dully got that and a considerable number of fans inside Police Stadium, Cairo loved it.
But it’s Bobby Williamson’s Cranes, eyes on the Shs400m prize money for the winners of the inaugural Nile Basin tournament that bossed better possession and clear-cut chances, a 3-1 victory the reward. Manko Kaweesa, Noah Ssemakula and Owen Kasule were on target to give Uganda a strong start to the competition in a group involving hosts Egypt and Tanzania, who had a late kick off yesterday night.
Goalkeeper Hamza Muwonge, back in the squad after being dropped for the just-concluded Cecafa Cup in Tanzania, had to bail the Cranes out in the ninth minute with a superb stop before left-back Habib Kavuma set the mood with adventurous runs.
The Cranes pressure, buoyed by a surprise support of about 100 Ugandans – most university students, some residents in Cairo - should have told on 17th minutes when Owen Kasule was brought down in the box.
But skipper Simeon Masaba, who hesitated before dispatching the kick, had his penalty saved by Jeff Nzokira.
Kasule, who finely controlled the middle together with industrious Dan Wagaluka on the right, had a header off the post before Nzokira saved striker Patrick Edema’s rebound.
Masaba redeemed himself when he laid a low ball from a free kick for midfielder Manko Kaweesa to send in a slightly deflected shot, the URA anchorman later running the distance to shake hands with Williamson.
“I’m pleased with the boys,” said Williamson, “Quite a number of them have shown me they can play at this level. Owen has been there, Noah (Ssemakula) has come in well, Manko stepped up today, and, this is what this tournament is about.”
But Burundi did not surrender, forcing Muwonge into countless priceless saves in both halves. But he couldn’t withhold Habarugira Jean-Paul’s 38th minute shot from a free-kick for Amars Niyongabo’s side’s equaliser.
A smart move started by Kasule, facilitated by Wagaluka and buried by Ssemakula produced Uganda’s second on 54 minutes before Kasule capped his good day’s work with a third after a melee in Burundi’s defence. Mike Mutyaba, Saddam Juma and Yudah Mugalu were all given cameo appearances. Cranes next face Egypt on Saturday. The top two teams from the group advance to the semi-finals.
Cranes’ starting 11