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Group E World Cup qualifiers: Misfiring Harambee Stars held by Uganda Cranes

FOOTBALL By Washington Onyango | September 2nd 2021
Harambee Stars Michael Olunga tackle Uganda Cranes Juuko Murushid during their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifier Group E match against Uganda Cranes at Nyayo national stadium on September 02, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Harambee Stars winless run against Uganda continued after being held to a 0-0 draw by the neighbours in Group E World Cup qualifiers match played at the Nyayo Stadium on Thursday.

The last time Kenya defeated Uganda was back in 2015 during the CECAFA Championship which Harambee Stars won 2-0.

Even a better form (having won four of their last five matches) and an impressive debut for Serbia-based midfielder Richard Odada could not propel the hosts to victory.

Kenya needed a win in the match to catch up with West Africa’s Mali who defeated Rwanda 1-0 in the opening group’s match played on Wednesday.

The draw leaves Kenya second in Group E with one point same as (Uganda), two points behind leaders Mali as Rwanda remain bottom after the defeat.

Kenya started swiftly with former Gor Mahia captain Kenneth Muguna sending Olunga on the offensive in the opening seconds of the match but Charles Lukwago in goal for Uganda would deny Olunga a simple header after rushing out to collect the long loose ball.

Five minutes later, Uganda were forced to make an early change with the injured Halid Lwaliwa replaced by Enock Walusimbi.

The change was followed by a very slow game with both sides failing to create any meaningful set plays and chances.

However, that changed in the 20th-minute mark as Khalid Aucho shot from the edge of the box was firmly saved by Star’s keeper Ian Otieno in what was the first major scare for Kenya.

Moments later, Olunga tried his luck from range in an attempt to register Kenya’s first shot on target but his attempt would sway wide.

With luck of ball movement and attacking plays, Harambee Stars coach Jacob Mulee made a bold move to replace Sofapaka top scorer Lawrence Juma and introduce Erick Johanna at the half hour mark.

A scary moment for Kenya followed after center referee Ali Mahmood pointed to the spot for a foul on Milton Karisa committed by Joseph Okumu but the lines man dimmed it outside the box leading to a change for a free kick.

Kenya could have taken the lead in the 40th minute but Olunga missed to tap in from close range after Abdallah Hassan hard work from the right wing.

Two minutes later, Odada and Miguna combined to release Johanna whose long range left-footed shot narrowly missed the left side post.

Qatar-based Olunga would again try to catch the Ugandan defense sleeping with a quick long-range attempt but his effort would not trouble Lukwago in goal.

The half would end with Ugandan captain Emanuel Okwi stretched off as Derrick Nsibambi replaced him upfront.

In the final half, it was the same story for both sides who lacked a cutting age.

Stars captain Olunga could perhaps win it for Kenya in the 64th minute after being put through by Masud Juma but the striker rustiness was more evident after he missed the ball through on goal.

Despite dominating the second half with numerous attempts, Kenya lacked the final finishing cut as Uganda held on for one crucial point.

Kenya will now travel to Rwanda for the second group match as Uganda welcome leaders Mali in Kampala over the weekend.

Harambee Squad 

Ian Otieno (GK), Daniel Sakari, Erick Ouma, Eugene Asike, Joseph Okumu, Richard Odada, Kenneth Muguna, Lawrence Juma, Abdallah Hassan, Masud Juma, Michael Olunga (C)

Subs 

James Saruni (GK), Joseph Okoth (GK), Eric Johanna, Duke Abuya, Patila Omoto, Harun Shakava, Boniface Muchiri, Jackson Macharia, Frank Odhiambo, Henry Meja, Mohammed Siraj, Bolton Omwenga 

 

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