It was so close yet so far for Ulinzi Stars as they bowed out of the Caf Confederations Cup with a 4-3 aggregate loss against Egyptian side Smouha, despite winning 3-0 in the second leg in Machakos on Saturday.
The soldiers needed a 4-0 win to force the game to penalties or a win of more than five goals to advance outright.
Even with ten men after John Kago was sent off in the 55th minute, Ulinzi put in a great shift but their best was never enough to carry them through the day.
It seemed a huge wall to climb for the soldiers, especially after their huge 4-0 loss in the first leg where they were totally outplayed. However, they gave their all, but bowed out with an agonizingly close scoreline.
“We had belief in ourselves from the word go and we came to fight for a win. I am happy with how we played today. It is a bit sad that we came close but failed to get the ticket to the next round. We now shift our focus back to the league,” Ulinzi coach Benjamin Nyangweso said after the match.
Smouha tactician Moanen Soliman was full of praise for Ulinzi, saying they fought like men.
“My team today we didn’t play like we did in the first leg. We were very slow and we never won the second balls. We didn’t have a shot on target and that is something very bad for us. But we are pleased to go through,” Soliman noted.
Samwel Onyango scored twice in the first half with Omar Mbongi scoring a deflected free kick late in the second half.
Onyango opened the scoring in the 10th minute after being picked out by a Daniel Waweru pass from midfield, stretching his feet to tap the ball past the Smouha keeper.
The hosts doubled the tally in the 36th minute after winning the ball from a poorly taken back pass to the keeper, racing into the box to lift the ball past the advancing custodian.
The soldiers came close to the third at the stroke of half time, but Amwoka’s effort from an Onyango ball went inches wide.
Ulinzi were reduced to ten men in the 55th minute after midfielder John Kago received his second yellow card after a rushed tackle. He got his two bookings in the space of less than 10 minutes.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Ulinzi piled on the pressure and went 3-0 up when Mbongi’s free kick deflected on the wall to dodge the keeper.