Hosts Rwanda got off to a dream start following a 1-0 well-deserved victory over Ivory Coast in the Chan 2016 opening game on Saturday afternoon at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali.
Emery Bayisenge curled a well-taken free kick from 30 yards to find the back of the net in the 16th minute to hand Johnny McKinstry’s side the lead.
A minute earlier, Amavubi had had two back-to-back opportunities with Danny Usengimana squandering a chance in front of goal before Innocent Habyarimana’s shot went inches off the goalpost.
The home side with the backing of a fully packed 30,000-seater controlled the game thereafter and maintained the lead after the opening 45 minutes.
In the second half, Rwanda continued to create more chances in front of goal and almost doubled the lead at the hour mark when captain Jacques Tuyisenge was brought down by goalkeeper Ali Sangare Badra.
Rwanda was awarded with a penalty but Bayisenge’s attempt was convincingly saved by Badra who dived to the right, punching it away to relieve pressure on his side.
The Elephants gained confidence thereafter with Djedje Guiza hitting the woodwork in stoppage time before Essis received a good pass in the penalty box with a one-on-one situation with Rwandan goalkeeper Eric Ndayishimiye who came to Amavubi’s rescue.
Ivory Coast mounted pressure on the Amavubi as they dominated possession in the last 30 minutes but Rwanda held on to emerge victorious.
McKinstry said, “We cannot win every game but on individual days we canbe solid especially in the first half, we played very well. They sat very deep but in the last 30 minutes, tired legs started coming up. We were hanging on.”
Dussuyer admitted that he was disappointed with the result but hopes to bounce back. Ivory Coast has never made it past the group stages at Chan.