Uganda Cranes fall in Algiers

The Cranes started on a losing note, falling 2-0 to Algeria in the capital Algiers on Saturday to end the first round of games bottom of Group F with no points.

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The Cranes now have to beat Niger on Wednesday to redirect their 2023 Afcon campaign

Uganda must beat Niger in their second Afcon 2023 qualifying match on Wednesday for them to realign their journey to Ivory Coast.

The Cranes started on a losing note, falling 2-0 to Algeria in the capital Algiers on Saturday to end the first round of games bottom of Group F with no points.

Coach Micho Sredojevic's men had a chance to equalise soon after the Algerians got ahead in the first half but forward Faruku Miya failed to score from a penalty spot.

Aissa Mandi and Youcef Belaïli scored the goals for the hugely dominant Algerians as the Fennec Foxes took full control of the group on three points.

Niger, who the Cranes face on Wednesday at the uncomfortable St Mary's Stadium, Kitende artificial turf, drew 1-1 with Tanzania.

Micho handed debuts to Soltilo Bright Stars midfielder Marvin Youngman, substitutes in U-20 stars Steven Sserwadda and Derrick Kakooza, plus Proline’s Hakim Kiwanuka to partly signal an ongoing transition.

But the Cranes were largely in a closet, with surprise starter Gavin Kizito at right back peppered all night and Isaac Muleme struggling to live with the Algerians throughout.

Central defenders Bevis Mugabi and Halid Lwaliwa did their best to contain experienced striker Islam Silmani but as both goals showed, their best and that of their teammates was far from enough.

Khalid Aucho's midfield with Young man and Miya was patrolled at will by the Algerians commanded by AC Milan Ismael Bennacer.

There was little or no threat from Allan Okello playing across the front with Emmanuel Okwi and Milton Karisa largely limited to helping out deep against the frenetic Fennec Foxes.

A 2-0 result would suggest that the Cranes tried to live with Algeria, but even Micho knows it could have been worse but for some outstanding saves by goalkeeper Charles Lukwago, who recovered after some nervy start.

The Algerians were dangerous from the start but their reward did not come until the 28th minute.

Belaïli floated in a teasing ball and experienced Algerian striker Islam Silmani’s header crashed off the bar for Mandi to shoulder it in for 1-0.

The Cranes had a chance to respond before half time when Aucho was seemingly pulled down to the ground by Rachid Ghaza in a corner melee.

Miya stepped forward to take the resultant penalty but the forward, whose career with Lviv never took off following the war in Ukraine, went central and goalkeeper Mustapha Zeghba saved it with his outstretched leg.

The Algerians continued to restrict Uganda in their half after half time although the Cranes, read Lukwago, dug deep to keep in the game.

But the more positive team got their second of the night in the 80th minute when the impressive Belaili dribbled almost half the Cranes team to fire home past Lukwago.

The Cranes must now quickly reorganise in time for Niger on Wednesday, with Algeria taking a trip to Dar es Salaam to face Tanzania on the same day.

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