Champions and record winners Uganda Cranes started their Cecafa title defence on a rocky patch after a barren stalemate against Burundi, at the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega County on Monday.
In the only match of the day, almost half of the fans of the tournament’s opener between Kenya and Rwanda on Sunday turned up, significantly lowering the electrifying mood that engulfed the stadium on day one.
Isaac Mulume tested Burundian custodian Jonathan Nahimana in the second minute with a well taken free kick, who in full stretch, punched it out of the area before Pierre Kwizera cleared.
A minute later, Mamelodi Sundown’s and former Sofapaka striker Abdoul Fiston Razak combined well with Laudit Mavugo, only for the latter to lose his footing before pulling the trigger.
In the 10th, Burundi’s Shaban Hussein stopped and meticulously dodged past Bernard Muwanga inside the box, but wasted a one-on-one opportunity against goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan, allowing Mulume to clear for a corner. Ochan then easily picked Fiston’s header from the resulting corner.
Nahimana Shahir’s traded a series of passes with Mavugo and Fiston, the former dashing past Timothy Awany on the right channel only to end the move awfully, shooting off target.
Uganda responded with Milton Kalisa connecting former AFC Leopards attacker Allan Kateregga’s cross in the six yard box, but a watchful Nahimana kept him at bay.
In the 39th, Awany thought he had given Uganda the lead after connecting Mutyaba Muzzamir’s cross to the net with a powerful header, but Kenyan centre referee, Peter Waweru, disallowed it on offside rule.
None of the side could breakthrough going the break, in what was a rather lurklasture first stanza.
Burundi came back more determined and organized, Luvago and Fiston coming close within the first four minutes of the second half.
It was Uganda however who got a clear chance in the 51st, Muzzamir’s cracker hitting against Nahimana’s fists after Allan Kyambande had put him through.
Head coach Moses Basena then made two changes in succession, withdrawing Taddeo Lwanga and Kateregga for Nelson Senkaatuka and Hood Kaweesa respectively, both coming on to strengthen his attack line.
A goalmouth melee saw Uganda escape narrowly, when a flurry of attempts ended with Ochan picking the ball at the goal line in the 63rd.
Senkaatuka had his first chance of the match two minutes later, calling Nahishimana to another heroic save to keep Burundi in the game. His close range shot was punched out for a corner, fruitless as they came.
With the clock ticking fast to the 70th, Basena tossed his last dice of substitutions, bringing on Paul Mucureezi for Kalisa.
As if Burundi were the ones introducing fresh blood, Shahir and Mavugo tested Ochan on goal three minutes later after the former had danced around Uganda’s defenders.
With 10 minutes to go, Burundi’s head caoch Olivier Niyungeko introduced Mossi Moussa into the fray, resting Hussein Shaban, his first change.
Albeit frantic efforts from both sides in the dying minutes of the match, the goalkeepers kept their goals safe to seal a goalless draw for the defending champions Uganda.