Kampala. Some neat passing in the first 25 minutes and an endless array of probing deliveries by Moses Waiswa were some of the limited worth-notes on Saturday evening.
After that, a dangerous lull set in as the Cranes struggled to balance attack and preventing Mbwana Samatta-inspired Tanzania from breaching their defensive lines.
In the end, coach Emmanuel Amunike’s Taifa Stars picked a precious away point in the goalless draw at Namboole and Sebastien Desabre, in his first competitive home game in charge of Cranes, ceded two.
But after another stalemate in Lesotho between the hosts and Cape Verde last evening, it was not that bad after all as Uganda remain in full of Group L on four points.
Tanzania and Lesotho are tied on two apiece while Cape Verde have one with four matches to go for each side. The top two qualify for the 2019 Afcon finals in Cameroon.
“We are disappointed with the result,” said Desabre at the post-match press conference, “In the first half we had to score but failed to finish.”
Joseph Ochaya and Emmanuel Okwi wasted Uganda’s best chances in either half, while it took a massive save from Tanzania goalkeeper Aishi Salum Manula to deny Farouq Miya late on, with Waiswa the provider on all occasions.
“We had a first 25 minutes and you could see something different but in the second have we also try to manage the game because Tanzania is a good team. But we shall qualify.”
The Tanzanians clearly had a plan to secure a point, soaking in all the pressure and using skipper Samatta and Simon Msuva on the break.
“I’m proud of my players,” said Amunike, who was taking charge of his first game since getting the coaching job with the Stars. “Uganda is a very good team.”
“You could see the quality of individual players but we looked at our strength and weaknesses and went to work. We came to fight and you could see the fight. We have achieved our objective and we are very happy with the point.”
Onyango save, Waiswa class
They fought for every ball and almost capitalised when Uganda ceded possession near the 18-yard box 20 minutes from time. Samatta, who earlier in the first half tested Nicholas Wadada, the defender being booked on one of his challenges on the striker, gathered the ball and charged at Cranes skipper Denis Onyango in goal.
Onyango was up to the task, closing down Samatta and stopping his first attempt before holding onto the ball on the Tanzanian’s second try.
“Samatta is one of the leading strikers in the region and I’m happy I pulled off the save. Sometimes you need to take responsibility,” said Onyango. With silent murmers over whether Desabre, who - to be honest was parading his first real own-prepared team since taking over, is up for the job, Waiswa produced some moments all were proud of in unison.
The Vipers midfielder, starting his first senior Cranes game, delivered quality balls from almost every area of the pitch, some of which Okwi and Ochaya were guilty of not converting.
Where obsevers were disappointed in Desabre’s defensive midfield of Khalid Aucho and Denis Guma, who have endured some months of no regular club football, they were thrilled by Waiswa’s introduction.
“You could see the boy’s ability,” said Desabre, “It’s a risk but he showed quality.” Asked to rate Waiswa’s debut out of ten, Onyango gave the boy a “nine.”
Uganda are next in action back to back against Lesotho next month, with the immediate fixture in Kampala.
The top two countries in 12 groups will qualify for Afcon finals, which will be the first since the tournament was expanded from 16 to 24 teams.
Group L standings
Team P W D L F A Pts
Uganda 2 1 1 0 1 0 4
Tanzania 2 0 2 0 1 1 2
Lesotho 2 0 2 0 2 2 2
Cape Verde 2 0 1 1 1 2 0
Group L results
Uganda 0-0 Tanzania
Lesotho 1-1 Cape Verde
Uganda vs Lesotho October 10
Lesotho vs Uganda October 14