Geoffrey Massa and Brian Umony scored two second half goals as Uganda opened their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification with a 2-0 victory over Botswana at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole on Saturday.
The win temporarily moved the Cranes top of Group D with three points before Burkina Faso also overcame Comoros 2-0 later that day. But it is William Kizito Luwagga who dictated proceedings at Namboole after Uganda endured a frustrating first 45 minutes.
With just under 30,000 spectators at the 40,000-capacity stadium, pressure was on the hosts to get it going. Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic started with Dennis Onyango in goal, Dennis Guma at rightback and Brian Majwega at leftback. Isaac Isinde and Richard Kassaga completed the back four.
Gor Mahia’s Khalid Aucho enforced the midfield together with Farouk Miya while Kizito Luwagga and Godfrey Walusimbi patrolled either flanks. Massa and Umony completed the 4-4-2.
But there was no breaking Botswana early on as goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe made telling saves.
The Cranes also had their own undoing when Massa made a telling run on the right before crossing for Walusimbi to miss from a yard away from goal.
Both teams went to recess level. Uganda knew they had to score to calm the nerves and breakthrough finally came on 55 minutes.
Luwagga, fresh from signing a three-year contract with Portuguese topflight side Rio Ave after a move from Sporting Covilha, lofted in an inviting ball from the right.
Massa timed it perfectly to head past Dambe five minutes to the hour mark. Luwagga was at it again, latching onto an inviting pass from Miya down the right. Luwagga then laid it low for Umony for the striker to score his first Nations Cup qualifying goal in four campaigns. Zebras now face an uphill task in the remaining fixtures as they seek their second appearance at the continental showpiece. They take on Burkina Faso at home in the next group match, which is scheduled for September. Anything less than a victory could see them fall further back in the race to finish in the top two bracket. Two teams in each group qualify for the finals. (Superport, additional reporting by The Monitor)