KAMPALA, August 17- It was not exactly the start they yearned for as champions and Kenya’s Ulinzi Stars were held to a barren draw by Rwanda’s APR in their opening East Africa Military Games tie in Kampala, Uganda.
Seeking a third straight title and a sixth overall, Ulinzi will hope to sharpen their shooting boots as they prepare to face Burundi on Tuesday morning in their second clash.
Had they won, then the Kenyan soldiers would have sounded an early warning of intent by topping their group ahead of the corresponding opening tie between Uganda and Tanzania later Monday.
Uganda played to a two-all draw against Burundi on the opening day on Sunday with the latter playing with ten men for half an hour.
Uganda’s squad has been boosted by former Sofapaka and AFC Leopards midfielder Mudde Musa, now with Bandari as well as former Tusker FC winger Robert Omonouk now with Sony Sugar FC.
Ulinzi played below par against a defensive Rwandese side.
A number of players who were with APR in the CECAFA Kagame Cup in Dar-es-Salaam were present in the team including deadly winger Issa Bigirimana who however, did not play.
Amaeus Rugwiro almost gifted Ulinzi with an early goal but had his goalkeeper Yves Kimenyi to thank for stopping an own goal after deflecting a Justine Onwong’a’s cross that was intended for Oscar Wamalwa who was lurking inside the area.
Ulinzi lost too many balls in the middle of the park and failed to punish the Rwandese for sitting back and defending in droves in the opening minutes.
APR’s first meaningful effort at goal came in the 41st, Fiston Nkinzingabo seeing his shot hit the side netting after beating Rodgers Omondi on the left.
In the second half, Robert Matano brought in Boniface Onyango for Ben Sande, a bid to stabilize the midfield with Sande having struggled with possession in his first start for the soldiers since May.
Wamalwa, who had picked a knock to his knee earlier in the first half, gave way for Evans Amwoka, another experience-laden striker in the Ulinzi fold.
With 45 minutes to make the difference, Ulinzi pumped balls in search for the opening goal and John Mark Makwata should have sounded the celebration bells with a swinging effort in the 54th but he blasted wide after the APR defense half-heartedly cleared Kevin Amwayi’s long throw.
Geoffrey Kokoyo also had a go from Amwayi’s free kick but his header was too weak to trouble Kimenyi.
On the other end, Kokoyo almost gifted APR a rare chance against the run of play, his intended pass deep in defence being picked up by Janvier Abengaata but the later had a heavy first touch and the ball rolled out of play.
Makwatta paved way for Job Muhati, Matano looking for fresh legs to spur the hunt for the much needed goal. Muhati almost made an immediate impact, flicking a header to Amwayi who however, shot inches above the bar.
Ulinzi play Burundi at 10am Tuesday and Matano who was visibly disappointed with how the boys played against Rwanda and urged for improvement.