Saturday, June 4
•Niger 1-1 Tanzania
•Algeria 2-0 Uganda
Wednesday, June 8
•Uganda Vs Niger – 4pm
•Tanzania Vs Algeria – 7pm
1. Algeria – 3pts
2. Niger – 1
3. Tanzania – 1
4. Uganda – 0
Farouk Miya wasted a golden chance to level matters before Uganda Cranes suffered a 2-0 loss against favourites Algeria to start their 2023 AFCON Qualification campaign on a low note.
About a minute after Algeria went ahead through Aissa Mandi, Uganda were awarded a penalty at the other end when the referee judged Khalid Aucho to have been pulled down in the box.
Miya stepped up to take the ensuing kick, but his effort was poor and kept out by Algerian goalkeeper Mustafa Zeghba who was a surprise starter ahead of first choice Rais M’Bolhi.
The Cranes looked an improved side in the second half but were hard done by a beautiful solo effort by Youcef Belaili in the 80th minute.
The Brest attacker strolled through the Cranes defence when he cut inside to find space in-between Steven Sserwadda and Gavin Kizito, then beat Khalid Aucho to find more room inside to fire in off the post past goalkeeper Charles Lukwago.
Uganda were by far the second best side at the July 5 1962 stadium in Algiers and could have conceded more against the hungry Desert Foxes.
But Lukwago was outstanding on the night, pulling out a couple of saves including a reflex to keep out Belaili’s bicycle kick earlier in the first half.
Uganda struggled to create a chance of note in a game they finished with a 20% possession.
False Start For Cranes
When the Group draw for the road to Ivory Coast were made, Uganda Cranes knew that a trip to Algeria will be the toughest!
And realistically, Uganda’s chance to qualify for 2023 AFCON after missing out on 2021 edition in Cameroon, will have to be as Group F runners Up.
And the race is not lost, despite a poor start.
Micho uncharacteristically named an attack-minded starting lineup on paper, but the Boys understandably sat deep from the word go.
And that gave Algeria more freedom and space to loom into.
Surprise selection Gavin Kizito who started at right back was turned into an avenue and Algeria almost opened the scores early on when the Villa defender was left stunned but Lukwago saved from a weak header.
The Cranes barely threatened going forward, and when they did, Miya fired wide after he was picked by Milton Karisa on the break.
Algeria continued to enjoy possession, and Gavin was once again at fault when he lost his marker only for Belaili to head wide when he was unmarked at near post.
And the Villa defender was later on just lucky to survive a straight red card when he hurtled into an opponent.
Moments later, Aucho brought down Ismail Bennacer outside the box, and its from that resultant freekick which was headed back into play by Slimani for Villareal defender Aissa Mandi to chest home from close range.
But Uganda got a chance to equalise; Aucho was brought down in the box, despite visibly insufficient contact, as he tried to attack a corner for the referee to point to the spot.
Miya shot straight down the middle, giving the keeper to make a routine save with his legs before halftime.
Uganda looked like they had stabilised in the second half, despite continuing to sit deep, before Belaili happened with a stunning solo beauty.
Bobosi Byaruhanga, debutant Hakim Kiwanuka, Derrick Kakooza, Martin Kizza and Steven Sserwadda all came on for the Cranes but in vain.
No Mahrez, No Problem
Algeria managed to pick a deserved result, doing so without influential winger and captain Riyad Mahrez.
And in the absence of the Man City winger, Islam Slimani was handed the armband in the week he celebrated his 10-year tenure on the National team.
He failed to impact the game as he would have wanted, but who will care after his side to a 2-0 comfortable victory.
Realistically, none of Niger and Tanzania will pick a point away to Algeria, a side that proved overwhelmingly better that the Cranes.
They exerted their authority right from the start and dominated throughout as they were cheered on by a raucous crowd at the July 5 1962 stadium.
Per stats, they made 555 accurate passes more than Uganda, and made 15 attempts against Uganda’s 4!
In fact, Uganda’s only shot on target was that missed penalty by Miya.
It’s a welcoming win for Algeria and relieves pressure of coach Djamel Belmandi after seeing his side fail to get out of the 2021 AFCON group. The side also failed to reach to the World Cup despite beating Cameroon on the road in the first leg of the playoffs.
Algeria visit Tanzania while Uganda welcome Niger on June 8. Niger and Tanzania played out a 1-1 draw in Benin.
Algeria XI – Moustapha Zeghba, Houcine Benayada, Aïssa Mandi, Ahmed Touba, Ramy Bensebaini, Ramiz Zerrouki, Ismaël Bennacer, Adem Zorgane, Rachid Ghezzal, Islam Slimani, Youcef Belaili
Uganda Cranes XI – Charles Lukwago, Gavin Kizito, Isaac Muleme, Halid Lwaliwa, Bevis Mugabi, Khalid Aucho, Joseph Marvin Youngman, Allan Okello, Milton Karisa, Farouk Miya, Emmanuel Okwi