Cranes, Stars snooze as Mali show direction

Friday September 03 2021

Stalemate. Midfielder Aucho closes in on Kenya captain Olunga (R) at Nyayo yesterday. PHOTO/FUFA MEDIA

By Andrew Mwanguhya

Micho Sredojevic and his Kenyan counterpart Jacob Mulee prepared a sleep-inducing pill and their players never disappointed, administering it to dozing perfection - for 90 minutes.

The drab goalless draw at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi last evening kicked off Uganda and Kenya’s road to Qatar 2022 World Cup, a journey that seemed unlikely given the tasteless sauce served on the day. 

Setting pace

Mali, who edged Rwanda 1-0 the day before - face Uganda at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende on Monday top of Group E with three points.

Kenya, level on one point apiece with Uganda, travel to bottom side Rwanda for Sunday’s clash.

Ten group winners will face a home and away playoff early next year, from which five African representatives at the World Cup will be decided.


Micho dropped a few surprises in his first XI, starting Charles Lukwago in goal ahead of Ismail Watenga, and giving Vipers youngster Bobosi Byaruhanga an early run in midfield alongside Khalid Aucho and Moses Waiswa.


The major highlights for Uganda from the first half were rather unfortunate ones, central defender Halid Lwaliwa, who started alongside Murushid Juuko, coming off injured.

Juuko’s Express FC teammate Enoch Walusimbi had no problem filling in the void, while Derrick Nsibambi started the second half in place of captain Emmanuel Okwi, who went to the break having pulled a muscle.

Well, even in the uninspiring display from both sides there was a moment of breath-holding, Milton Karisa being felled on the edge of the area by Joseph Okumu on 32 minutes.

The referee initially pointed to the spot but after consultation with his assistant awarded the free-kick, which Ochaya wildly blasted skyward.Kenyan captain Michael Olunga was equally quiet in Uganda’s half, thanks to a master display from Juuko, who intercepted a number of crosses, most from the left flank after Iguma had been beaten.

Devoid of ideas

Interestingly, both goalkeepers, Charles Lukwago of Uganda and Kenya’s Ian Otieno had little to do as outfield players seemed devoid of ideas for most part of the game.

Waiswa seemed at sea in the middle of the park, while Byaruhanga only seemed to wake up after recess.

Mustafa Kizza, Ibrahim Orit and Yunus Sentamu were the other second half substitutes as Micho shook things over but the result was never in doubt.

If Micho and Mulee are working on something special, it is still early to say. Besides, this is only their first WC qualifier, and none of them lost it. But it will be two points lost for Kenya, who - even in the flatness of the affair created more chances than Uganda - and one gained for Cranes as the latter now return home to face Mali.

[email protected]