Monday, March 29
*Malawi 1-0 Uganda
Uganda Cranes chances of reaching the third straight AFCON finals were put to an end following the team’s 1-0 defeat away to Malawi.
Going into the game decisive Group B game at Kamuzu Stadium, the Cranes needed at least a draw but the side failed to squeeze a result against the Malawi flames who have qualified to AFCON for the first time since 2010.
Richard Mbulu scored the only goal of the game to send Malawi on 10 points as Uganda finishes a lowly third with eight points.
Mbulu superbly guided a diving header off a Stanley Sanudi cross to leave Cranes captain and goalkeeper Denis Onyango rooted to his line.
The Cranes were toothless in attack and failed to sustain meaningful attacks against a determined side.
Emmanuel Okwi could have grabbed an equaliser before halftime but goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe was alert and outstanding to keep out his effort after it ricocheted from the post.
Cranes who started without Taddeo Lwanga after claims of Covid19 positive test lost Ronald Mukiibi to an injury. The introduction of Allan Okello and Yunus Ssentamu upfront could not bear fruits as the Cranes failed on last hurdle.
Uganda Cranes Architects Of Own Downfall
After two back-to-back qualifications, FUFA President Moses Magogo repeatedly said that its now time to make AFCON qualification a habit.
When the draw for the 2021 AFCON qualifiers were held, Uganda and Burkina Faso were outright favourites to earn tickets to Cameroon.
A strong start saw Uganda pick a vital point and clean sheet away to Burkina Faso, and they followed the campaign with a 2-0 win over Malawi to lead the group after Match-day two.
Nothing seemed to go wrong. A third consecutive appearance on the Continent was on the cards.
With South Sudan doubleheader next then, Uganda needed to collect six points from the minnows to confirm their place.
However, after squeezing out a 1-0 win at home, thanks to Halid Lwaliwa late header, the Cranes lost to South Sudan in the reverse fixture. This was a game they surely had to win given the fact that it was played at a neutral venue, in Kenya.
A subsequent draw at home to Burkina, coupled with Malawi’s win in Khartoum against South Sudan, meant that Uganda had thrown themselves into the abyss.
Midway through the campaign, FUFA has asked Jonathan Mckinstry to step aside, leaving Abdallah Mubiru with a huge mountain to climb.
The build up to the last two games was marred by the dismissal of Khalid Aucho from camp while injuries to Bevis Mugabi, Patrick Kaddu, Timothy Awany and Fahad Bayo left Uganda Cranes chances hanging in balance.
To make matters worse, Taddeo Lwanga was tested positive for Covid19 as claimed by the Malawi FA, but after FUFA contesting the results, the midfielder was cleared to play.
Played on artificial turf, the Cranes went down to a Mbulu header and showed no signs of recovery.
They never showed urgency going forward, with Coach Mubiru deciding to leave striker Yunus Ssentamu on the bench.
Moses Waiswa had an effort that went wide while Ibrahim Orit failed to connect on Joseph Ochaya’s lofty cross.
The hosts played deep in their own half down the stretch as they closed out the game to end the Cranes’ faint hopes.
Uganda ends the campaign on a three-game winless run.
Malawi Flames Shine Brightest
Malawi’s AFCON qualification is a true of resilience.
After beating South Sudan in the opener 1-0, they wobbled through the subsequent games with just one point to show.
But a hard fought victory against South Sudan on the road put their chances back on track.
They qualify to Cameroon after a successful campaign that saw them score four and concede five!
The most important goals of the four are the last two that have been scored by Richard Mbulu, a Baroka striker who earlier enrolled into army.
He showed his quality to power in a header past Onyango after he fended off resistance from Murushid Juuko.
They kept pressing and were denied by a post in the second half after a ferocious effort from Stanley Sunidi as they continued to kill off the game.
Earlier, Onyango had denied Mbulu at near post but the side remained in character before holding on to a historical result.
Malawi had last beaten Uganda Cranes in 2015 Cecafa, but this result is the sweetest for the side in recent memory.
This is the third appearance for Malawi at the Africa Cup of Nations having played at the tourney in 1984 and 2010.
Uganda Cranes – Denis Onyango, Nico Wadada, Joseph Ochaya, Ronald Mukiibi, Murushid Juuko, Mike Azira, Moses Waiswa, Ibrahim Orit, Farouk Miya, Mustafa Kizza, Emmanuel Okwi
Malawi – Lineup – Ernest Kakhobwe, Stanley Sanudi, Charles Petro, Limbikhani Mzava, Precious Sambani, John Banda, Gerard Phiri, Peter Banda, Robin Ngalande, Richard Mbulu, Khuda Muyaba