Uganda Cranes leaves it late to share spoils with visiting Harambee Stars in a World Cup qualifier

Friday, November 12th, 2021 00:00 |
Harambee Stars’ Eric Johana dribbles the ball during the team’s training session on Tuesday. Photo/PD/ RODGERS NDEGWA

 By Vincent Voiyo in Kampala

Kenya national football team Harambee Stars put up an impressive show against perennial regional rivals Uganda Crane’s, consigning the hosts to a 1-1 draw in match day five of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers played at the St Mary’s Kitende Stadium in Kampala.

The 80th encounter of the famous ‘Migingo Derby’ ended in a 1-1 draw but the pain went directly to Uganda who have lost a chance to progress to the next round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 with one game in store.

Coach Engin Firat made five changes to the team that started against Mali last month, bringing in Amos Nondi, David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng, Anthony Okumu, Anthony Wambani and Samuel Onyango into the starting line-up.

Captain Michael Olunga beat an offside trap and headed home to give Kenya the lead in the 60th minute after a fine delivery from Kenneth Muguna.

The home team chased the game almost the entire second half, desperately in search of an equalizer at the quiet St Mary’s venue.

However, their efforts paid off in the 88th minute with dangerman Fahad Bayo taking advantage of Bwire’s error to tap in and make it 1-1,scoring his third straight goal in this qualification campaign.

After coming from back-to-back defeats against Mali, Kenya coach Engin Firat was under pressure to deliver result to prove his coaching credentials. The team looked ameliorated, displaying  a good outing as compared to their previous encounters.

Earlier in the game, Harambee Stars emerged the danger team seven minutes of play with Gor Mahia’s Samuel Onyango missing from the box after he was dislodged by Crane’s center-back Timothy Awany. Onyango had been set up by Kenneth Muguna with a grass cutting pass into the left wing of the opposition.

Cranes’ custodian Charles Lukwago was kept busy by Stars forward line and forced to save two back to back shots from Kenya skipper Michael Olunga.

Uganda’s clear goal scoring opportunity came in the 28th minute when Brian Bwire punched into the area a free kick from Bobos Byaruhanga. Bevis Mugabi collected the rebound inside the six yard box but his shot went wide over the bar after he chose power over precision.

In a post match press conference, coach Firat praised his charges noting that they deserved to win.

“I am happy that we are improving day by day. But I thing we played well and we had chances to completely especially in the first half. We gifted them a late goal but all in all in my opinion it was a foul on our goalkeeper Brian” said Firat.

Olunga who has now scored 14 goals for club and country in 19 games this season says they had no bad intention to spoil Uganda’s changes to progress.

“Its a game of football. We had our scoring opportunities same to them. They had equal  periods time to win the game. We just played the game for our pride with the aim of improving”,Olunga told People Daily Sports.

Having struggled to beat Kenya, Uganda Cranes finds themselves in a peculiar position as far qualification to the next round is concerned. They remain second in the Group with final showdown against leaders Mali set for Monday night in Morocco.

Harambee Stars jetted home last evening, and have two days of training before they clash with Rwanda on Monday at the Nyayo National Stadium, the final game of the qualifiers.“It’s not something that I like and I know a lot of players feel the same way. It’s not something that anybody really wants to do.”

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