Uganda and Mali will enter matchday five of the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Kenya and Rwanda, respectively, as the only teams in Group E still in the running for the football festival in Qatar.
The two completed their back-to-back victories over the Amavubi and Harambee Stars last evening in Kampala and Nairobi to establish daylight between them and the vanquished.
Like they did in Agadir in Morocco and Kigali, Fahad Bayo got Uganda’s goal at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende, for the Cranes 1-0 victory, and Ibrahima Kone – hattrick hero against Kenya last Thursday – scored the winner in Nairobi.
Like he promised after the two drab draws against Kenya and Mali in the opening two games that Ugandans would see “the real Cranes in October,” Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic and his boys delivered.
At least result wise!
The only change from the Cranes team that started in Kigali last week was suspended Khalid Aucho sitting this out.
That gave an opportunity to young left back Aziz Kayondo to start, allowing Isaac Muleme to push forward and add depth to both the midfield and attack in a situational 4-3-3 formation.
Uganda went about their business with purpose and honesty, showing hunger with forays of attacks on both flanks.
Denis Iguma coordinated well with Steven Mukwala on the right and industrious Muleme with Kayondo, with Enoch Walusimbi and Timothy Awany again keeping a clean sheet.
Taddeo Lwanga did just enough to shield the defence, with Bobosi Byaruhanga, who is fast growing into the role, and Moses Waiswa battling to thwart and initiate attacks from the middle.
Seizing the moment
The Cranes big opportunity arrived off a corner on 22 minutes, Muleme delivering it and Rwanda striker Meddie Kagere’s poor clearance redirected in off off Bayo’s head for the forward’s second goal in as many games.
Rwanda’s glimpses of bright spots were highlighted by their enterprising Kevin Muhire, who troubled Uganda’s midfield and defence but without necessarily hurting them.
The Rwandans did try to force the issue in the second half through Kagere, Muhire and Jacques Tuyisenge, but even when they breached the defence, goalkeeper Charles Lukwago intervened.
How the maths work
Mali maintain table leadership, now on 10 points, with Uganda on eight in second. This means that third-placed Kenya on two points and bottom, Rwanda (one point), cannot advance to the final phase of qualification even with two matches left to play.
Uganda, who alongside Mali are yet to concede a goal after four matches, welcome Kenya on November 11 as Rwanda host Mali. Should both Uganda and Mali maintain the momentum, the final game in Morocco – where Mali are hosting their games – on November 14 will be decisive.