‘Micho’ admits he has reached his limit

•Rwanda’s hopes dashed with home loss•Coach happy with players’ performanceIN 20 years of coaching, Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic claims he has never worked harder than he has done since taking over as Amavubi Stars coach last October.
Micho cools himself down before the second half kick off. The New Times/T. Kisambira.
Micho cools himself down before the second half kick off. The New Times/T. Kisambira.

•Rwanda’s hopes dashed with home loss
•Coach happy with players’ performance

IN 20 years of coaching, Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic claims he has never worked harder than he has done since taking over as Amavubi Stars coach last October.

After watching his team surrender a precious lead to lose 1-2 against Mali in a crucial 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil qualifier at Amahoro stadium on Sunday, the under fire Serb tactician admitted, “We couldn’t have done much better.”

“I have been doing this (coaching) for 20 years but never before have I worked harder than I am doing with Rwanda,  I have done the best I can to build a strong and winning team, but (with the available resources) we have our limits,” Micho confessed during the after-match press conference.

He added, “Like I have said before, Mali have been the most consistent team in Africa for the last two years, and so we knew it was going to be a very difficult match for us.”

Rwanda took the lead in the 37th minute through striker Meddie Kagere, who controlled superbly a long pass from Edwin Ouon before squeezing the ball past Mali keeper Soumaila Diakite.

The goal reinvigorated the fans on the terraces and the players but didn’t demoralise the Malians, who remained calm and stuck to the game-plan.

Apart from a few individual performances for the Eagles, there was virtually little to choose between the two teams as the hosts stood toe-to-toe with their more illustrious opponents across the field.

If the Mali coach Patrice Carteron and his players were shocked after going a goal down, they didn’t show it but instead it was the Amavubi players, who panicked and lost concentration when the visitors equalised five minutes after the break.

Italy-based midfielder Mamadou Samassa out-jumped Ouon to direct home a flicked header past Jean Claude Ndoli, who despite conceding two goals had one of his better games in the Amavubi goal.

Ouon, being the biggest and tallest player for Rwanda, was disappointed with his marking, and he and his teammates, while still in shock, went down 1-2 just eight minutes later when Abdou Traore struck home what turned out to be a superb winner.

Dady Birori hit the cross bar with a thumping header as Rwanda chased for the equaliser, while Elias Uzamukunda, Mao Kalisa wasted a few set-pieces.

Meanwhile, Mali kept their shape, defended well, won the midfielder battle, especially through Mussa Sow and former Liverpool man Mohamed Sissoko as they wound down the clock and frustration boiling over among the fans.

But despite the defeat, which follows another (0-1) against Libya in an international friendly four days earlier, Micho was still satisfied the way his player applied themselves.

He said, “I have to thank my players for the way they performed, each one of them 200 percent today and I can’t fault anyone for the defeat, they gave their best.”

Amavubi have now lost two and drawn one of their three qualifying matches, and with trips to Benin and Mali and a home tie against Algeria still to come, it appears as though Rwanda’s chances of reaching the third and final qualifying round are all but over.

How Amavubi players rated against Mali

Jean Claude Ndoli    6
Moa Kalisa        5
Jean Claude Iranzi    6
Eric Gasana (Mbuyu)    7
Solomon Nirisarike    7
Fabrice Twagizimana    6
Edwin Ouon         8
Haruna Niyonzima    7
Olivier Karekezi        5
Meddie Kagere        7
Dady Birori        6

Used sub
Elias Uzamukunda    5
Jessy Reinford        4

Verdict: Centre back Edwin Ouon was Rwanda’s man of the match despite playing in an unfamiliar midfield role.

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