It was a dramatic heart break for Kenya's Harambee Stars as they lost1-2 to Uganda Cranes in an evenly fought Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup finals played at the Namboole stadium in Kampala, on Saturday.
Cranes playing under the heavy support of partisan crowd took the early lead in the 28th minute when Kenyan skipper Anthony Kimani deflected into his own net a fierce shot from Uganda forward Robert Ssentongo which gave goalkeeper Duncan Ochieng no chance.
A late surge by Stars’ gave them hope of taking the game to extra time in the 87th minute when towering striker Edwin Lavatsa tapped in a neat feed from substitute Paul Were. The speedy winger showed much composure to set Lavatsa to beat Ugandan keeper Hamza Muonge.
The goal which sent the Kenyan fans at the stadium to a delirium was however, short-lived as Cranes grabbed a late dramatic winner from a set piece in injury time.
A free-kick by Geoffrey Musieve was headed into the net by Kenya’s Anthony Kimani amidst an aerial pressure from Geoffrey Kizito who had the owner of the goal being awarded to him.
The Kenyan side put up a spirited display but were unlucky to gift Cranes with two goals and also suffered an early set back in the game when reliable defender David Owino had to be pulled out with what appeared as a hamstring injury.
The injury scare made Nandwa to change tack bringing in Kevin 'Daddy' Omondi who would later make way for Paul Were with just three minutes left on the clock.
The Bob Williamson coached side looked very dangerous throughout the game more so on flanks with Emanuel Okwi and Robert Ssentongo giving the Kenyan defense some torrid time.
The second half had limited real chances, but fierce exchanges in the midfield. Omondi had an ultimate chance in the 68th minute to level the score line with a free kick, but he sent it wide above the cross bar.
Earlier on in the first half, Kenya spanned a real chance in the 43rd minute when substitute Omondi who found out Edwin Lavatsa who made a good effort to fire past Cranes keeper Hamza Muoge only to be denied by the wood work.
For Cranes, the victory is a shot in the arm as it makes them maintain their dominance over Kenya and the region at large. They have now won a record 13 Cecafa titles compared to Kenya's five.
For Stars the long wait for the title continues. They last lifted the crown in 2002 beating Tanzania Kilimanjaro Stars 3-2 while in 2008 they reached the finals but fell to Cranes 1-0.