Smouha scrape through as Ulinzi go down fighting
Ulinzi Stars nearly completed an improbable comeback to salvage a place in the CAF Confederation Cup second round, as they put up a stirring display to win 3-0 against Smouha SC at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos.
Nonetheless, the four-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions crashed out of the continental secondary club competition 4-3 on aggregate as their first leg pummeling in Alexandria, Egypt a week in the end proved insurmountable.
Samwel Onyango notched a first half brace before Omar Mbongi’s deflected freekick in the second half left Ulinzi needing one more goal to level the aggregate score but a numerical disadvantage curtailed their chances when John Kago saw red.
The build-up to the clash had been dominated by talk of a replication of Spanish giants FC Barcelona’s magical 6-5 triumph over French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League last 16 and the Military Men just nearly lived up to the implausible dream.
Ulinzi got the kind of start they would have desired as Onyango struck the opener inside the first nine minutes, steering a whipping Boniface Anyango expertly past the Smouha goalkeeper.
A lapse in concentration in the visitors’ backline allowed Onyango to steal the ball from defender Yasser Ahmed and stroke home his second of the afternoon as the home side halfed their first leg deficit in the opening 45 minutes.
A strange seven-minute spell in the opening proceedings of the first half saw Kago receive two yellow cards and, subsequently, a red to Head Coach Benjamin Nyangweso’s dreams of emulating his Barca counterpart Luis Enrique dented.
But his charges kept pressing and were rewarded with 20 minutes to go when Mbongi’s free-kick squeezed through to make the scores 3-0.
Onyongo nearly made it 4-0 only for the goalkeeper to tip his powerful header in the 78th minute over the bar for corner.
Smouha’s Islam Mohammed missed the chance to bury the tie three minutes later, doing well to beat defender Geoffrey Kokoyo only to spill his shot wide.
Nyangweso threw Oscar Wamalwa into the fray late on but to no effect as Ulinzi’s brave fight Ulinzi’s fight ended in vain.
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