RWANDA has made a swift return to the finals of the African Nations Championships (CHAN) tournament – again at the expense of Ethiopia – despite both teams playing out a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their qualifier on Saturday.
Striker Ernest Sugira produced a late moment of magic to rescue a draw for Amavubi, which was all the home side needed to qualify for the fourth time – and third in a row – after winning the first-leg 1-0 in Ethiopia last month.
In the 83rd minute, in-form Sugira got everyone at the fullypacked Kigali Stadium off their feet after his masterclass finish brought Rwanda back in command of the tie.
The 28-year old also scored the lone goal of the first leg with an acrobatic overhead kick.
In Saturday’s tightly contested draw, Lemene Tafesse broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute and the visitors could have scored at least twice more in-between, until AS Kigali midfielder Eric ‘Zidane’ Nsabimana set Sugira up for the late equalizer with a curling pass from the right flank.
Vincent Mashami’s side almost grabbed the lead at the hourmark but Sugira had his goal disallowed allegedly for fouling an opponent in the buildup.
With the victory, over the two legs, Rwanda has now made it to the continental tournament’s three consecutive editions, and twice at the expense of Ethiopia’s Walias having also brushed them aside en route to the 5th CHAN edition in Morocco last year.
After a dull first half, Mashami brought on Police striker Osee Iyabivuze for APR’s Djabel Manishimwe while Jean-Claude Iranzi replaced ineffective APR midfielder Olivier Niyonzima.
However, the changes did not stop Ethiopia from bossing the proceedings for large spells of the game, and at a number of occasions only had Yves Kimenyi to beat but the Rayon Sports keeper was fantastic in goal.
Amavubi, Uganda Cranes and the Taifa Stars of Tanzania will represent the Cecafa region at the 6th edition of the biennial CHAN showpiece to be held in Cameroun next year.
Rwanda was the host nation of the tournament’s fourth edition in 2016.