Kenya’s journey towards the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar began in flat style after being held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Uganda Cranes at the Nyayo National Stadium on Thursday evening.
The Kenyan boys failed to trouble the Ugandans much with limited scoring opportunities while the visitors also failed to threaten much, but leave Nairobi with confidence of a point away from home.
Kenya’s coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee was left frustrated with the point but says his side will battle to get back on track with the second match against Rwanda on Sunday.
“It is a point gained for us but I believe we should have started better. We were a bit slow and we couldn’t play our usual passing style of play. This is because we have not played a single match together since away in Togo. But we have now gathered some momentum and I know we will be better in the next game,” Mulee said.
His opposite number Milutin Sredojevic was happy with the point and disclosed their game plan was to cut out supply to Kenya’s top striker Michael Olunga.
“We knew that he was the target man and if we could cut off the balls reaching him, we would reduce the danger for Kenya. We did that effectively and for us a point away from home is welcome,” said the tactician.
Kenya lacked the cutting edge and didn’t create much danger to trouble keeper Charles Lukwago. Abdallah Hassan wasted two chances at the backpost, guiding both wide from Masud Juma’s crosses.
The tightly marked Olunga twice tried to get a sniff at goal but couldn’t muster a shot on target with both his efforts flying wide.
Uganda slowly grew into the game and had a sniff at goal in the 21st minute. Bobosi Byaruhanga battled for the ball at the edge of the box and when he cited space, took aim on target, but keeper Ian Otieno was well placed to collect.
Coach Mulee made a very early sub, pulling Lawrence Juma out and replaced him with Eric Johana hater only 29 minutes.
The home side had a scare in the 33rd minute when the referee pointed to the spot after Milton Karisa came down under a challenge from Joseph Okumu, but upon consultations with the second assistant referee gave a freekick instead.
Joseph Ochaya took the set piece but struck wild. He had a chance to atone minutes later when he went for a shot from distance but it sailed straight into Oteino’s arms.
Mulee’s charges looked to end the half on a high. They came inches close when Hassan struck a low cross into the box, but a sliding Masud could not arrive in time to tap home. Johannah had a chance too with a shot on goal but it sailed wide. Stars were trying all they could to bring life to the attack with Boniface Muchiri and Duke Abuya brought on for Hassan and Kenneth Muguna.
Coach Mulee made another change that raised eyebrows, substitute Johannah coming off for the last 10 minutes and Jackson Macharia brought on.
However, none of that could bear a goal or let alone an effort on target as the Ugandans held on for the point. They will next play Mali at home on Sunday and will look to book a win and move top of the group.
Stars will meanwhile regroup to battle for their first win away to Rwanda.