Butali Sugar scrape through to Africa Cup hockey semis
Butali Sugar Warriors pulled off a gritty 2-0 victory over Niger Flickers from Nigeria on Wednesday to squeeze through to the semi finals of the African Club Cup Championships on goal difference in a clash played at the Nairobi City Park.
Earlier reports indicated the second Kenyan side in the men’s tournament needed to score at least three without conceding to secure progression but it was later clarified by the Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) Chairman Nahashon Randieki they sail through to the last four with a two-goal winning margin.
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Relieved Butali stand-in coach Meshack Senge expressed his joy for earning a place in the semi final but rued the opportunities his team lost in the first half to make for a comfortable afternoon.
“The match didn’t go as planned as we missed too many chances. The first objective was to qualify as the first in our group that’s why we needed three goals.
“But for now we’ll focus for the next match by putting our heads together and giving it our best,” he added.
Senge dismissed suggestions his team was struggling to play in the scorching afternoon heat on the Astroturf surface of City Park.
“The heat isn’t a challenge for us we’re used to it so we can’t make an excuse,” he undernoted.
Butali started on a high note on the back of an emphatic 3-1 win against Ghana Police in their previous outing that resurrected their hopes in Pool B following their opening loss to Sharkia of Egypt.
In the first 10 minutes they subdued Flickers and got due reward in the 19th minute when Emmanuel Simiyu sounded the boards and the Kenyans struck the second through Vincent Odhiambo two minutes later to threaten a rout.
Despite their efforts to score the third Flickers recovered from the double salvo to tighten their rearguard and restrict Butali to 2-0 at the breather.
The second half was a contrast from the first as the Nigerians picked up their game as Butali sunk deeper in defence with their Dutch player Van Hattum who was a menace on the opening period misplacing the ball on several occasions.
In the 55th Butali almost succumbed to pressure only for goal keeper Akbar Salman to come to their rescue by clearing Aliyu Idris’s pinpoint cross.
Minutes later Butali failed to capitalise on a golden chance from a short corner with the ball ending wastefully wide as Senge made a double change in the 64th by hauling on Zack Aura and Brian Musasia in a last throw of the dice.
“Ghana Police scored seven; Butali scored five while Sharkia who were their closest opponents bagged four. This means that Butali will qualify as the second team in their group after the Ghanaians,” KHU boss Randieki explained.
The second Kenyan side in the men’s competition, Kenya Police were due to play later Wednesday.
-Report by Matthews Mutai and Mwangi Githinji