By Samuel Opio
Group L: Tuesday results
Lesotho 0 Uganda 2
Tanzania 2 Cape Verde 0
Lesotho- Unbeaten and yet to concede a goal so far, the Uganda Cranes are one point away from securing a place in the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals, following a convincing 2-0 victory away against Lesotho on Tuesday evening.
Two first half goals by Farouk Miya were enough to seal back-to-back victories over the southern African kingdom as Uganda kept up their unbeaten streak and clean sheet in this campaign.
Despite the Crocodiles applying pressure in the second half, the Ugandans stayed put, stamping their authority and riding this one out with relative ease.
For a third time in this duel, a Ugandan has scored a brace against Lesotho.
First it was Geoffrey Massa back in 2006 when the two sides met at Mandela National Stadium in a Nations Cup qualifier. Last Saturday, Emmanuel Okwi punished the Crocodiles with two strikes on either side of the interval. Today, Miya has done the same, with a rasping strike in the 6th minute just outside the box, and then sweeping in the winner 10 minutes before half time from a freekick near the edge.
After Tanzania exerting revenge on Cape Verde in the day’s earlier Group L tie with a 2-0 win, lifting them to second place on five points, it means that Uganda, now on ten points at the summit, require only one point to seal qualification.
You would say that, with two games remaining (one at home against Cape Verde), the Cranes are as good as safely ashore.
Head coach Sebastien Desabre and co. will now take a break after a breathless four days in which they battled Lesotho at home and had to hit the skies only hours later to pitch camp in Maseru for the return leg.
The 42-year-old French tactician will have been delighted with his team’s show of resilience and dominance to collect the maximum six points from this exhausting double-header.
On Tuesday, the visitors illustrated just how comfortable they can be on artificial surface as on natural turf when they flew out of the blocks on the front foot, pegging Lesotho in their own half.
Allan Kateregga nearly made the early pressure count when he came on the end of a whipped-in cross, but he brushed his header wide.
Two minutes later, however, Uganda was ahead, thanks to Miya’s fierce strike on the edge of the box in the 6th minute of the opening half. Lesotho goalkeeper Likano Mphuthi, who started ahead of Mohau Kuenane, did not stand a chance.
Miya, the scorer of Uganda’s only goal at the 2017 AFCON finals in Gabon, nearly made it two seven minutes later when he carried the ball over Basia Makepe, only to blast well wide of goal.
A comfortable start on foreign soil saw the lankier Ugandans outwit, outplay and outlast the home side under floodlights in a sparse Setsoto Stadium in Lesotho’s capital Maseru.
But in a rare buildup in the attack, the Crocodiles came close to punishing their more illustrious east African opponents in the 17th minute. But Matlama FC’s Mabuti Potloane miskicked his effort wide enough not to cause any trouble for Cranes first-choice keeper and former African Player of the Year Denis Onyango.
While the Ugandans were strong aerially and precise their passing, the hosts picked up momentum mid-way through the first half.