Uganda Junior Cranes are the 2023 Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Under-18 champions.
Travis Mutyaba scored in extra time as Uganda came from behind to shock hosts Kenya 2-1 in the finals played in a fully packed Jomo Kenyatta Stadium in Kisumu on Friday.
Syphas Owuor had given Kenya the lead in the 60th minute before Batiibwe Okello restored parity for Uganda in the 75th minute.
A 1-1 tie at the end of the 90 minutes saw the match proceed to extra time, time Uganda did not waste after scoring in the opening minute of the first 15 minutes.
Attacking midfielder Mutyaba pounced on a loose ball inside the box to score into an empty net with Ibrahim Wanzala well beaten by the dangerous cross that came in from the right wing.
Uganda held on to win 2-1 in front of over 15,000 Kenyan fans.
Hakim Mutebi was voted the Most Valuable Player (MVP) after helping Uganda win the tournament while Kenya’s Aldrine Kibet won the golden boot award with three goals.
Uganda started the game on the front foot winning the midfield battle as Mutyaba, Hakim Mutebi and Vincent Kisolo commanding play.
The trio were so quick, physical and steady, dominating the Kenyan midfield made of Humphrey Aroko, Elly Owande and Stanley Omondi.
In fact, Uganda were so dominant that Kenya had to do a double change in the midfield after only 30 minutes played.
Spanish based Aldrine Kibet and Lucas Kungu were introduced to neutralize the Ugandans who through Mutyaba were causing numerous problems and winning dangerous fouls after every attack.
The change did its magic as Kenya went on for their first promising attack that was wasted by US based forward Louise Ingavi who sent his shot wide in the 40th minute despite being clear on goal as the match went to half time tied at 0-0.
In the second half, Kenya made further changes by bringing in Tyron Junior to strengthen their attack, a move that paid off as Syphas Owuor missed from point blank range after Abdu Magada in goal for Uganda failed to hold on to a long cross.
Magada recovered to save Owuor’s attempt at the goal line.
Moments later, Owuor returned again and this time connected well to goalkeeper Wanzala’s long kick to give Kenya a 1-0 lead.
The goal did no harm to the Ugandans who kept on believing as Kenyans wasted three chances to kill off the game.
First, Owuor sent his five-yard goal attempt into the side net before Kibet despite beating three defenders failed to find the back of the net as he saw his low shot attempt sway wide as Magada in goal for Uganda was caught flat foot.
The wasted chances haunted Kenya in the 75th minute when MVP Mutebi’s delivery was met by Okello for a 1-1 score, a score line they carried to extra time.
In the opening minute of extra time, Mutyaba converted a loose ball after a goal melee to give Uganda a 2-1 lead.
The Junior Cranes defended their lead to win the CECAFA title.