Thursday Sep 02, 2021. 17:58
East African derby rivals Kenya and Uganda played to a goalless stalemate in their 2022 World Cup Qualifying Group E opener at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on Thursday afternoon.
The result leaves the Harambee Stars and the Cranes level on one point on the log standings, with group favourites Mali top with three points thanks to their 1-0 win over Rwanda on Wednesday.
Uganda suffered an early injury blow, with Halid Lwaliwa replaced by Enock Walusimbi within the opening 10 minutes. The Cranes, though, did have the first shot on target, with Byaruhanga Bobosi seeing his effort turned away by Kenya goalkeeper Ian Otieno on 21 minutes.
Just past the midway point of the first half, Kenya created their first clear chance as Richard Odada’s cross picked out striker Michael Olunga, but his header at the far post failed to test goalkeeper Charles Lukwago.
Kenya were soon also forced into an unscheduled early substitution, with Lawrence Juma withdrawn on the half hour mark and replaced by Eric Omondi.
The Cranes’ Joseph Ochaya was not afraid to try his luck from long range and twice threatened a spectacular opener with just under 10 minutes of the first half remaining: first firing over from a free kick wide on Uganda’s right, before stinging the palms of Otieno with a drive from 30-plus metres out.
Kenya created a good chance to break the deadlock just a few minutes before the interval when Omondi broke free down the right of the penalty area, but his effort was neither shot nor cross and passed harmlessly across the face of goal to leave the game 0-0 at half time.
The start of the second half saw Uganda replace Emmanuel Okwi (who was stretchered off at the end of the first stanza) with Paul Nsibambi, while Kenya’s Masoud Juma nearly claimed a goal on 55 minutes with a diving header which flashed just wide of the target.
That incident signalled the start of sustained pressure from the Harambee Stars, who dominated possession and forced the Cranes onto the back foot for most of the second half, but clear chances were few and far between.
Olunga had a couple of glimpses of goal, but generally the away side’s defence kept the dangerous striker out of the game by cutting off his supply.
Ultimately the match ended 0-0, with the Cranes certainly the happier of the two sides after claiming a valuable away point.
Kenya will next face Rwanda in Kigali on Sunday 5 September, while Uganda will host Mali in Entebbe the following day.
Kenya: Otieno, Okumu, Ouma, Asike, Sakari, Odada, Muguna (Abuya 71’), L. Juma (Omondi 30’ [Macharia 76’]), M. Juma, Abdallah (Muchiri 71’), Olunga
Uganda: Lukwago, Jjuko, Iguma, Lwaliwa (Walusimbi 9’), Muleme, Ochaya (Kizza 67’), Bobosi, Aucho, Waiswa (Orit 67’), Karisa (Sentamu 83’), Okwi (Nsibambi 46’)