The Uganda Cranes produced a below-par performance as they were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw against rivals Kenya in their penultimate 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Uganda had won their previous two qualifiers against Rwanda, but were lucky to leave with the St. Mary’s Stadium with a draw which ultimately ended their chances of progressing to the next qualification round.
Uganda and Kenya had played to a goalless draw in Nairobi in September, but the visitors were much improved here, frustrating their hosts who had made slight changes, starting with Bevis Mugabi and Timothy Awany for the first time in the campaign.
The game started on a sour note for the Harambee Stars after news broke that the Kenyan Football Federation executive committee was disbanded less than an hour to the game.
Regardless of the distractions back home, the Kenyan players stayed focussed on the pitch, taking to the game like a wild fire with captain Micheal Olunga drawing a top save from Charles Lukwago after 23 minutes.
Uganda was evidently second best for the opening half hour. Midfielder Bobosi Byaruhanga’s free kick that drew an incredible save from Kenya goalkeeper Brian Bwire the only goal threat that the hosts produced.
Kenya’s dominance saw them come even closer to breaking the deadlock moments before the half time break, only for left back Aziz Kayondo to produce a brilliant goal line save.
The hosts had a strong start to the second half. Bwire made a good save to deny Fahad Bayo. But that promising start was swiftly undone when Olunga nodded Kenya into a deserved lead after 62 minutes.
Olunga almost doubled Kenya’s lead, but Lukwago stood firm to keep his side in the game with another top save. Timothy Ouma also had his chance, pulling away from defender Mugabi but his volley sailed off the target.
Uganda had two shouts for a penalty that were waved away by referee Ahmed Djama Souleiman as they searched for a response.
The response would arrive but through unlikely circumstances as Bayo poked the ball from Bwire, leaving the goalkeeper with his face in his hands after the latter’s attempted time-wasting tactics went wrong.
With Mali winning their qualifier against Rwanda 3-0, there will not be any nervy climax to group E when the Cranes meet Mali on Sunday in Morocco.
How both teams lined up:
Uganda Cranes XI: Charles Lukwago (GK), Denis Iguma, Timothy Awany, Bevis Mugabi, Aziiz Kayondo, Khalid Aucho (C), Bobosi Byaruhanga, Moses Waiswa, Isaac Muleme, Steven Mukwala, Fahad Bayo
Subs: Watenga Ismail (GK), Kigonya Mathias (GK), Mulondo Livingstone, Kakooza Mahad, Mugweri Garvin, Revita John, Kagimu Shafiq, Kizza Martin, Orit Ibrahim, Okello Allan, Karisa Milton, Sentamu Yunus
Kenya XI: Brian Bwire (GK), Joseph Okumu, David Ochieng, Abud Omar, Amos Nondi, Anthony Akumu, Kenneth Muguna, Anthony Wambani, Abdallah Hassan, Samuel Onyango, Michael Olunga (C)
Subs: Ian Otieno (GK), James Saruni (GK), Musa Mohammed, Johnstone Omurwa, Richard Odada, Duke Abuya, Timothy Noor Ouma, Alwyn Tera, Cliff Nyakeya, Cliffton Miheso, Ismael Salim