Rwanda head coach Johnny McKinstry yesterday praised the national U-23 for defeating Somalia 2-0 in the first leg of the CAF U-23 preliminary round of qualification at Amahoro National Stadium.
McKinstry said, “To be 2-0 at the end of the first leg of the tie is very pleasing. Overall, my assessment is that we could have done better. I think that our second half performance was below the standards we set ourselves.”
Captain Emery Bayisenge’s free-kick from 30 yards on the left flank could have given the home side the lead as early as 36 seconds into the game but his effort hit the crossbar and was cleared by the Somalian defense.
Striker Bertrand Iradukunda came close to scoring in the eighth minute but his low shot went inches off the far post.
In the 17th minute, midfielder Yannick Mukunzi opened the scoring with a superb header from a Jean-Marie Vianney Muvandimwe free-kick to find the back of the net past the hapless Somalian goalkeeper Mustaf Khalib Hussein.
The visitors got their first attempt at goal when Abdinasir Yusuf Ahmed was brought down by Bonfils Kabanda outside the penalty box but teammate Abdikarim Abdalle’s freekick went straight into goalkeeper Marcel Nzarora’s hands.
Thereafter, the home side lost possession easily as the visitors gained confidence going into the second half. McKinstry replaced Muvandimwe with striker Isaac Muganza to partner with Iradukunda upfront and indeed there were chances created late into the second half.
However, it was substitute Kevin Muhire’s fantastic strike in stoppage time from 40 yards on the left flank that curved into the goal past Hussein beating him at the near post to seal a comfortable victory for McKinstry’s side.
McKinstry said the visitors were difficult to break down because they defended deep.
“You need to have good concentration levels because one lapse in concentration can see the formation break down.”
Somalia assistant coach James Magala said, “We played well because we tried to defend and attack at the same time. We have been lacking experience because this is our first international game after a long time.
Eight ineligible players
The win, McKinstry’s first since taking over last month came at the back of a dramatic 24 hours prior to the game after he was told on Friday afternoon that eight players in his squad were ineligible to play following concerns about distorted dates of birth in their passports visa contrary to information given to the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Dependable players including right back Michel Rusheshangoga, central defenders Faustin Usengimana and Herve Rugwiro, defensive midfielder Robert Ndatimana, attacking midfielders Andrew Buteera and Djihad Bizimana as well as first and third choice goalkeepers Olivier Kwizera and Yves Kimenyi were left out of the team until the situation is addressed next week.
McKinstry said this decision gave him fewer options in selecting the team that played yesterday.
The return leg will be played on May 9 in Kenya and the winner will face Uganda. The side that will proceed thereafter will meet Egypt and the winner will qualify for the Caf U-23 tournament scheduled for December 5-19 in Senegal, an event that will attract eight teams. The top three will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.