IN HUYE, RWANDA
Despite playing their hearts out, Bandari still suffered early elimination from the Cecafa Kagame Cup here in Huye on Friday, a development that left team coach Bernard Mwalala almost speechless.
The Dockers finished unbeaten at the tournament with draws against Group 'B' rivals Tanzania's Azam, Uganda's KCCA and hosts Mukura Victory, but this proved nowhere near enough.
On Friday evening, the Coastal-based side failed to beat defending champions Azam FC with the match ending goalless.
This result left the Kenyan team with three points from as many matches and without a chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
"It was all about luck. The ball just refused to go in," a visibly disappointed Bandari striker Wycliffe Ochomo explained.
"It's a learning process, we will come back stronger in the continental games," said Mwalala.
The outcome also leaves Gor Mahia as the remaining Kenyan representative in this regional showpiece which attracted 16 clubs.
Friday's contest was played before an impressive turnout at the 10,000-seater Huye Stadium, in Huye town, approximately 110km from Kigali and a further 10km off the Rwanda-Burundi border.
It also marked the second instalment of the Kenya versus Tanzania rivalry, with the initial match-up having played out recently at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations where the Harambee Stars beat Taifa Stars 3-2.
And the thematic were simple. Bandari needed win against the tournament's defending champions to stand a chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
With this in mind perhaps, Mwalala went for the kill, parading Ochomo, Yema Muama, William Wadri and Shaban Kenga in attack in a match the Dockers badly needed a win.
But it's the Dar es Salaam based ice cream makers who settled fast.
In minute one, Ramadhan Said somehow found space on the edge of Bandari's box. He then released a fierce drive off his left foot but it failed to trouble Kenya goalkeeper Farouk Shikalo.
Moments later, Shikalo had to be alert to save another effort from Said, Azam's liveliest player. But then Bandari slowly found their way into this game.
With 24 minutes played, Ochomo brilliantly timed a Kenga free-kick with a header on target, but the burly forward could only watch in dismay as the ball came off the upright.
Worse, Kenga dilly-dallied with the follow up, allowing the impressive Azam keeper Razak Abalora to easily gather the rebound.
Moments later, Muama was flagged offside as he prepared to pull the trigger, and then on the other side Bandari's veteran defender Felly Mulumba erred in mistiming a header, but was bailed out by an alert Shikalo.
Mwalala hauled off Darius Msagha for Benjamin Mosha at the start of the second half but not much impact came off it.
Said had the ball in the back of the net but match referee Pierre Kibingo disallowed it.
"We have started slowly but I'm impressed that we are now in the quarters. Let's take it from there," said Azam's Burundi coach Etienne Ndayitagyie, who was earlier this week appointed Tanzania national team caretaker coach.
Bandari's last chance fell to Mosha at the death. But he spurned the free-kick.