By Edwin Kyle Kule
There was no avenging for the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations final defeat that continues to haunt Ugandan football fans as the Ghana U20 defeated the Uganda Hippos 2-0 in the final of the U20 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.
Captain Daniel Barnieh Afriyieh scored either side of the half time break as Ghana won their fourth title and first U20 trophy since 2009.
The Hippos had enjoyed a fairy tale run at the tournament held in Mauritania as they became the first national side to reach a continental final since the Uganda Cranes lost the 1978 AFCON final to Ghana.
The battle between the East African giants Uganda and West Africa heavy weights Ghana started off with understandably a bit of nerves from either sides.
But it is the Hippos who tested the waters first in the second minute, Derrick Kakooza with a great opportunity in font of goal, but the forward failed to find the target as he lifted his shot over the cross bar while Ismail Mugulusi’s shot from range sailed wide of the target.
The Ghanaians looked to have properly sailed beyond their early nerves and started to threaten at the other end, drawing a couple of successive corner kicks from the Hippos.
Ghana nearly made Uganda pay from a corner kick, Philemon Baffour saw his header come off the cross bar with Emmanuel Essiam also placing his rebound onto the cross bar before the Hippos managed to clear their lines.
Ghana took the lead from a corner kick through through captain Daniel Barnieh who sneaked into space at the near post before applying a small touch ahead of Bobosi Byaruhanga to beat goalkeeper Jack Komakech.
Both sides continued to have a fair share of possession, but Ghana looked the more dangerous as they continued to find spaces to shoot at Komakech’s goal while they tactically set up to frustrate the Hippos from gaining momentum going forward.
The Hippos had their work cut out as they re-emerged from the locker rooms for the second half, but it is the Black Satellites who extended their lead seven minutes into the second half.
Afriyieh completed his brace on the day after reacting fastest onto Precious Boah’s deflected cross and then slotting below Komakech.
With Ghana carrying a two-goal lead, it was about game management as they slowed down the pace of the game looking to mainly keep the ball inside their half.
The Hippos continued their search for a life line in the game and nearly pulled a goal back after substitute Ivan Bogere did well to beat his marker but his shot eventually lacked the venom to trouble the goalkeeper.
Moments later, Ghana goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim tice dropped the ball inside the penalty area but his defenders were on hand to clear after his errors.
While the U20 AFCON final did not provide the fairy tale ending, the Hippos can take heart in an excellent performance throughout the tournament reaching the final in their maiden appearance.
How they lined up
Uganda Hippos XI: Jack Komaketch (GK), Gavin Kizito (C), Aziz Kayondo, Musa Ramathan, Keneth Ssemakula, Bobis Byaruhanga, Isma Mugulusi, Steven Sserwadda, Richard Basangwa, Ivan Asaba, Derrick Kakooza
Ghana U20: Danlao Ibrahim (GK), Philemon Baffour, Frank Kwabena Assinki, Uzair Al-Hassan, Samuel Abbey-Ashe Quaye, Emmanuel Essaim, Patrick Mensah, Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, Precious Boah, Daniel Afriyie Barneh, Mohammed Sulemana