Harambee Stars started their Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup campaign on the wrong footing when they fell 0-1 to home side Uganda Cranes in a Group A match at the Nelson Mandela National Stadium, Namboole on Saturday.
Geoffrey Kizito scored the all–important goal in the 73rd minute off a Walusimbi Godfrey free-kick.
Both teams started on low note with Kenya opting to first study their opponents before going into the offensive in a match punctuated by several missed chances.
Harambee Stars striker Humphrey Mieno missed three open chances with Cranes goalkeeper Abel Dhaira beaten in a match that was goalless at the interval.
Later Dhaira was substituted by Hamza Muwonge after he collided with Mieno. However the second half was delayed for 15 minutes after half the floodlights went off.
Uganda’s Emmanuel Okwi should have scored in the 23rd minute but his powerful shot was punched away by Duncan Ochieng, resulting in a fruitless corner kick.
The closest Kenya came to scoring was in the 43rd minute when Mieno lost balance and fell after being charged by Wasswa Hassan with only Dhaira to beat.
Stars coach James Nandwa said he was happy with his boys' performance, adding they played according to his instructions but luck eluded them.
“We are going to work on our striking line in our next match to ensure we collect three points and enhance qualification chances,” he said.
Cranes coach Bobby Williamson said his boys missed many chances that should have ensured they won the match with a higher goal margin.
Kenya’s Benard Mangoli and Anthony Kimani were booked while Uganda’s Iguma Denis received a yellow card.
In the earlier match the Ethiopian side that is bound for the 2013 Africa Nations Cup finals in South Africa beat South Sudan 1-0 but wasted a dozen chances that should have ensured they won the match by a bigger margin.
South Sudan, the newest member of the oldest regional soccer body in the continent, exhibited good skills that belied their infant status.
The match, watched by among others Confederation of Africa Football president Issa Hayatou, saw Ethiopia score their solitary goal through Yonathan Kebede in the 60th minute following a counter-attack.
Ethiopia missed two golden chances in the first half when Eliyas Mamo curled the ball towards goal but South Sudan keeper Juma Jenario parried it for a fruitless corner kick.
Girma Bekele's placed shot was saved by the alert South Sudan keeper.
Ethiopia, with three points safely in the bag will face Uganda on Tuesday in their second match as South Sudan take on Harambee Stars on the same day.
In Sunday’s action Tanzania mainland Kilimanjaro Stars will take on Sudan from 6pm in a tough Group B match at Nelson Mandela National Stadium, Namboole.
The encounter will be preceded by a tie between Burundi and minnows Somalia that kicks of at 3 pm.
Both Sudan and Tanzania are formidable sides. The match is quite unpredictable and can go either way depending on which side has had the better play of the day.