Second half substitute Derrick Kakooza’s 88th minute penalty and Steven Sserwadda’s 59th minute leveller were what Uganda needed to claim a 2-1 victory over hosts Mauritania at the Stade de Olympique in Nouakchott on Saturday as the CECAFA region debutants progressed to the quarter finals of the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.
Both sides needed victory to assure passage to the last eight, but it was Uganda who would pick the ultimate prize coming from behind to win the tie and seal second spot. The host nation will now have to wait till the final round of Group C matches to know if they progress as one of the two best third placed teams.
The Mauritanians took the lead five minutes to half time courtesy of a Silly Sanghare penalty before Uganda equalized on the hour mark through Steven Sserwadda. Kakooza, who replaced another substitute Najib Yiga, would then step up to calmly slot a late penalty for his second goal of the tournament.
The Hippos did everything right in the opening half but score and were duly punished for their poor execution of chances. Mauritania’s star man Oumar Mbareck who had been quiet for most of the match was brought down inside the area by Abdu Azizi Kayondo with eight minutes left.
The fleet footed winger picked the ball inside the box before switching to his lethal left foot and Kayondo duly tripped him as he prepared to pull the trigger.
Sanghare stepped up to the pressure plate and struck his spot kick into the roof of the net to give the home side a valuable lead.
Uganda felt hard done by the goal as they were the better side all through.
Ivan Asaba was the dangerman for the CECAFA Champions with his movement on the left causing all sorts of problems to the Mauritanians and within the opening nine minutes of the match he had already been fouled four times.
He had two chances to score, first his shot from the left after some good play on the right saw 10 slap in a cross, but it was too weak with the keeper easily collecting.
He had another effort with a long range freekick in the 20th minute, but once again couldn’t get some good power behind the ball, the keeper making a meal of it.
The Ugandans continued to pile in the pressure, but poor decisions in the final third cost them goal scoring chances.
They however came off the break determined to right their wrongs and it took them just quarter of an hour in before they drew level. A good move on the right saw Steven Sserwadda break into the box and hit a low shot that ended in the bottom right corner.
But Mauritania gave an equally good account of themselves despite seeing their lead erased and came close 10 minutes later when Sanghare pinched the ball off Gavin Kizito on the right but his final shot was well saved by the keeper.
Coach Mauril Njoya made changes, Mbareck coming off to a standing ovation despite being put under close watch by the Ugandans and in his place came El Mami Tetah. The Ugandans also made changes, Ivane Eyamu and Najib Yiga coming on for Asaba and Richard Basangwa.
Uganda almost stole the lead with 10 minutes left when Samuel Ssenyonjo played Yiga through, but the latter’s shot was blocked and immediately, Byekwaso replaced him with the eventual scorer of the Uganda’s winner Kakooza. Yiga had spent just about five minutes on the pitch!
The East Africans however kept the fight and won a penalty three minutes to time after the Mauritanian backline handled the ball inside the box as they tried to defend a corner. Boom! Kakooza converted what would be the winning goal.
Both Sserwadda and Kakooza scored for the Uganda Hippos in their first game of the competition in which they beat Mozambique 2-0.