James Saruni saved one penalty while another came off the woodwork as Ulinzi Stars progressed to the first round of the CAF Confederations Cup with a 5-4 post-match penalties win over Libya’s Al Hilal Benghazi.
The game had to be decided from 12 yards out after Ulinzi won 1-0 in regulation time, taking the aggregate scores to a 1-1 tie.
This is the first time Ulinzi progressed past the preliminary round of continental football. The last time they played was in the Champions League in 2011 and they exited in the first round after losing 0-1 to Egyptian giants Zamalek.
Benjamin Nyangweso, the military side coach was elated. “We were very frustrated at some point because they kept going down even when no one touched them. The referee seemed to encourage them because he never gave any warning. It wasn’t an easy win but all the same, we now plan for the next round,” Nyangweso said.
Just after team mate Enosh Ochieng had seen his penalty saved, Saruni made a fine save from Abdallah Alshaafi’s to take his side back into the game.
After a 4-4 tie in the first five kicks, the game went into sudden death and Esam Alamshi struck the bar with Omar Mbongi scoring. Oscar Wamalwa and Baron Oketch slotted the first two penalties for Ulinzi.
Faisal Albadri and Air Sanogo responded for the Libyans beating Saruni who read the penalties well.
After Ochieng missed and Saruni saved, the two sides both converted their fourth and fifth kicks. Samwel Onyango and John Mark Makwatta scored for Ulinzi while Ali Maetouq and Muad Alamami responded for the visitors.
Heading into sudden death, Mbongi scored a well taken left footed kick and Alamshi struck the woodwork.
Ulinzi will now face Egyptian side Smouha.
It wasn’t a game of very many chances in regulation time especially for the visitors who seemed determined to see the game go to penalties.
Ulinzi broke the deadlock in the 19th minute through Samwel Onyango’s well taken low shot. John Mark Makwatta returning to the starting team after missing the first leg released the winger with a superb through ball which caught the defense napping.
In the opening minutes, Hilal tactically held back with Sanogo roving alone upfront. They tried to open up the Ulinzi defense with pace on the wing, but Geoffrey Kokoyo and Mohammed Hassan playing at the heart of the soldiers’ backline measured up.
Once, the visitors came close with Ahmed Amhimmid finding space inside the box, but his weak shot went wide.
Evans Amwoka kept the opponents busy on the other end and came close once once after racing to a John Kago through pass. He could not lob the ball over the advancing keeper.
In the second half, Ulinzi started brightly and after three minutes, Makwatta came close. The striker had two other shots trickle wide.
As the clock progressed towards the hour mark, the Al Hilal appeared to waste time frustrating Ulinzi’s surge upfront and breaking up the tempo whenever they picked momentum.
On Sunday, Tusker FC playing in the Champions League face Mauritian side AS Port Louis.