By Shafic Kiyaga
Uganda and Kenya renewed their rivalry as they played to a drab and wearisome goalless draw at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi on Thursday.
After failing to qualify for the 2021 AFCON, a new look Uganda Cranes team got their qualifying campaign underway with hope of picking up an early advantage over their East African nemeses.
Going into the game, Mali’s earlier 1-0 win over Rwanda in the same group was enough motivation for Micho’s boys to push for something from Nairobi.
The returning tactician was facing his first major task on his second spell. Herculean as it seemed, Micho trusted some of his old guards and locally based players to deliver in the first major tie of his rebuilding process.
KCCA FC goalkeeper Charles Lukwago got the node in between the sticks ahead of South
African based Ismail Watenga whereas Victoria Zizkov’s defender Isaac Muleme returned to the fold to man the left flank with TP Mazembe’s Joseph Ochaya, while the resilient Denis Iguma
finally earned his place back to the Cranes, after over two years on the sidelines due to a nasty injury.
Vipers SC youngster Bobosi Byaruhanga was handed his first senior national team start in midfield alongside Khalid Aucho, while Milton Karisa also returned to the side for the first
time since suffering a muscle injury in Uganda’s first game at the CHAN finals in January.
Micho and Uganda’s troubles started in the initial stages of the game as they were forced into an early substitution, with defender Halid Lwaliwa limping off with an injury.
He was replaced by Enock Walusimbi for his senior debut, partnering with Express FC clubmate, Murushid Jjuuko in the central defence.
Both sides failed to come alive in the opening 45 minutes.
Byaruhanga and Joseph Ochaya’s efforts from close range midway through the first stanza encapsulated Uganda’s struggles in the final third.
The hosts themselves had seven attempts on goal in the first half, but none of them troubled Lukwago in goal.
While it was laboring for the few in attendance at Nyayo and millions on TV, on the pitch
though, both teams did not hold back.
Lawrence Juma limped off and was replaced by Eric Johanna shortly after the hour mark, while the Cranes captain was clattered in a rough duel and was forced to make way for Smouha’s Derrick Nsibambi at the start of the second stanza of the game.
The second half was not different from the opening half.
While Kenya looked more comfortable on the ball, they were still far from unsettling Uganda’s solid backline.
Micho now has his work cut out heading into his first home game back in charge of the
Cranes when Uganda hosts Mali at the St. Mary’s Stadium on Monday.
On the other side, Kenya makes the short trip to Kigali to face bottom placed Rwanda.
Kenya: Ian Otieno (GK), Daniel Sakari, Eric Ouma, Eugene Asike, Joseph Okumu, Kenneth
Muguna, Richard Odada, Masud Juma, Lawrence Juma, Abdala Hassan, Michael Olunga.
Uganda: Charles Lukwago (GK), Denis Iguma, Isaac Muleme, Halid Lwaliwa, Murushid Juuko,
Khalid Aucho, Moses Waiswa, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Emmanuel Okwi, Milton Karisa, Joseph