Uganda stun Kenya to win 2023 Cecafa title

Uganda Junior Cranes celebrate with the 2023 CECAFA U18 title.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

Uganda are the 2023 Cecafa Under-18 champions. 

The Uganda Junior Cranes came from behind to stun Kenya’s Junior Stars 2-1 in a closely contested final played at a fully-packed Jomo Kenyatta Stadium in Mamboleo, Kisumu on Friday. 

Batiibwe Okello and Travis Mutyaba scored in Uganda's comeback win to cancel Syphas Owuor's opener for Kenya. 

The match started on a balanced note with both Uganda and Kenya sharing attacks on opposite ends with Ibrahim Wanzala and Abdu Magada collecting crosses easily at goal for Junior Stars and Junior Cranes respectively. 

Kenya's Louise Igavi (left) in action against Uganda.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

Uganda attacking midfielder Travis Mutyaba would then take matters to his own hands despite the over 15,000 Kenyan fans singing louder for Junior Stars, troubling the Kenyan defense with quick runs. 

Mutyaba forced four consecutive fouls in the 30 yards from goal on opposite ends, a move that troubled Kenyan coach Salim Babu standing on the touch line. 

The Ugandan physical style of play proved too much for Junior Stars in the midfield, forcing Babu to introduce Spain-based Aldrine Kibet and Lucas Kungu in place of Elly Owande and Humphrey Aroko. Kibet went on to win the golden boot award with three goals.

The change made five minutes to half time improved Kenya's attack as Louise Ingavi blasted Kenya's first real chance wide after being released through with a looping header from Syphas Owuor. 

Ugandan winger then Richard Okello got the ball inside the net but it would be ruled out for offside as the two sides went to the break tied at 0-0.

Uganda Junior Cranes celebrate with the 2023 CECAFA U18 title.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

In the final half, Babu introduced Tyron Kariuki for Joseph Khisia to further bolster his attack, a move that produced Kenya's first attack as Syphas Owuor almost gave Kenya the lead when Magada was beaten with a long ball before recovering to prevent a tap in.

A minute later, Owuor returned with a goal send Kenyans fans into frenzy after blasting the ball past a charging Magada as the hosts took a 1-0 lead straight from an assist from goalkeeper Ibrahim Wanzala.

Owuor could have doubled the lead a few minutes later, but his effort hit the side net before Kibet saw his well worked low shot from the edge of the box sway slightly wide after he had beaten three Ugandan defenders.

Against the run of play, Uganda silenced the Kenyan fans after netting the equaliser in the 75th minute through Batiibwe Okello.

The goal prompted Babu to introduce Kisumu Day High School's Dancun Omalla in for US based striker Ingavi, a substitution that was welcomed by an uproar of jubilation five minutes from full time. 

Uganda Junior Cranes celebrate with the 2023 CECAFA U18 title.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

Omalla almost scored the winner in the 93rd minute but his effort went inches wide after receiving a long free kick delivery from Stanley Omondi as the game headed to extra time. 

After being silenced in the second half, Mutyaba returned to haunt Kenya, this time with a goal, sending the ball into an empty net after a goalmouth melee gifted him the loose ball to give Uganda a 2-1 lead. 

The Ugandans held on to their slender lead to win the Cecafa title. 

By Brian Ngugi 9 mins ago
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