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AFCON U-20: Strong second half earns victory for Uganda in Group B opener

The Uganda Hippos came out strong following the halftime break and rode their momentum to a 2-1 victory over Central African Republic to kick off action in Group B at the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations on Monday. Isma Mugulusi and John Paul Dembe were the scorers for the CECAFA regional champions who showed their superiority for most of the match before holding on tight in an anxious finish. The Hippos will look to consolidate top spot in the group when they face Republic of Congo and Central African Republic will look to get their campaign back on track against South Sudan.

Like the two earlier matches so far in the competition it took both teams to get settled in their opening match in Egypt, something that played to the favor of underdogs Central African Republic. Les Fauves struggled to pose a threat but managed to hold off Uganda’s efforts to assert themselves in a mostly uneventful opening forty-five minutes.

The action picked up immediately following halftime and Uganda quickly snatched the lead before two minutes elapsed. A corner kick service from Rogers Mugisha found the near post run of Titus Ssematimba who flicked his header to the doorstep of the Fauves goal where Mugulusi turned in for a well executed set piece goal. The Hippos maintained constant pressure on their opponents and after a couple of missed chances it was 2-0 in the 74th minute. Dembe ran onto a long ball on the left wing and snuck by a defender on his way inside before curling a clinical shot past Fauves goalkeeper Mauril Abimala.

It seemed like the match was decided but the Ugandan defense switched off in stoppage time to allow a long ball to find Boris Gbenou who got behind and finished in off the crossbar past keeper Magada Abdu. An improbable equalizer nearly followed soon after when Abdu miscommunicated with one of his central defenders on a hopeful lofted ball into the box but fortunately the ball ricocheted out for a corner kick that Les Fauves could not capitalize on.

Highlights from the Group B opener are below.

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