Rayon Sports crowned 2023 Peace Cup champions

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Defensive midfielder Eric Ngendahimana proved to be a thorn in the flesh of APR for the second time this season as his strike earned Rayon Sports a 1-0 Peace Cup final victory on Saturday at Huye Stadium to be crowned champions.

Ngendahimana was on target against APR in February as his side beat APR 1-0 in the league and he has repeated the heroics again.

It was APR who initiated the first attack of the game in the second minute as Gilbert Mugisha had a through ball from Bosco Ruboneka in midfield. The striker lost his footing but was able to lay a pass to Innocent Nshuti who blasted it wide.

Rayon, on the other hand, decided to contain pressure from APR attack and try to hit them on the counter. They had a decent chance in the eighth minute but Heritier Luvumbu missed target narrowly after striker Léandre Willy Onana had gone on a solo run beating three players before setting him up.

Rayon Sports had the ball at the back of the net in the 19th minute as Ngendahimana headed home Onana’s pinpoint cross from the left but it was flagged offside to the dismay of the Rayon players.

The disallowed goal sparked a brief moment of impasse between the Rayon players and the assistant referee before coach Francis Haringingo calmed his men on to get back and continue to the game.

Rayon came into the picture strongly as they took control of the encounter with most of their attacks coming from Joackim Ojera on the right.

In the 40th minute, Ojera found space on his flank, beat his marker and sent in a carpet cross. Musa Essenu beautifully controlled the ball and laid it for Heritier Luvumbu who powered a harmless shot. APR goalkeeper Pierre Ishimwe fumbled with the strike and Ngendahimana, who was lurking inside the penalty box, poked in the rebound for the match opener.

The goal sent the Huye Stadium into a frenzy mood with the Blues fans up on their feet chanting.

There was little action in the final five minutes of the game as the first half ended with Rayon leading 1-0.

The second half started with a much lower pace as both teams decided to cope with each other’s playing style.

Army side head coach Ben Moussa needed a creative player in midfield and he brought on Anicet Ishimwe for Alain Kwitonda as he sought to pin Rayon into their own half.

The substitution nearly yielded dividends in the 63rd minute as APR had a great chance to pull even.

Isaac Mitima missed a clearance and Yannick Bizimana powered a shot which was saved by goalkeeper Bonheur Hategekimana, the rebound fell to an unmarked Anicet Ishimwe who blasted his effort over the cross bar.

APR brought on Yves Mugunga for Yannick Bizimana in the 67th minute whereas Rayon also pulled out Raphael Osaluwe for Roger Kanamugire to add more steel in the heart of midfield .

Rayon had a chance to kill the game in the 70th minute but after a neat build up, Essenu, who was under no pressure in the penalty box, just blasted his shot into the skies to the Rayon fans’ relief.

Heritier Luvumbu was hacked down by Gilbert Mugisha in the 75th minute after the Congolese attacking midfielder had beaten three APR players and was on the verge of launching a counter attack.

Mugisha was booked but Luvumbu limped off injured, paving way for Hadji Iraguha.

APR decided to bring in Ramadhan Niyibizi for Gilbert Mugisha in the 78th minute as the attacker looked tired.

APR started piling pressure pushing for an equalizer to force the game to extra time but the Blues’ defense for a wall that was too tough to penetrate.

Haringingo’s side instead had two glaring chances in injury time but Essenu squandered them.

Jubilations started inside the stadium after centre referee Jean Claude Ishimwe blew his final whistle to end the game in favor of Rayon who registered their 10th Peace Cup.

“I am so excited to score two important goals against APR and what’s more important is that my team won the trophy,”

Goalscorer Ngendahimana told Times Sport.

Besides the trophy, their first since 2016, Rayon were given a cheque of Rwf10 million worth of cash prize.

They will also represent Rwanda in the 2023/24 CAF Confederation Cup.

Source: The New Times

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