By Fred Kaweesi
Africa Nations Cup Qualifier
Uganda 1 Madagascar 0 (2-2 agg)
(Uganda qualifies on away goals rule)
GEOFFREY Massa earned Uganda a precious ticket to the second round of the 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers after a nervous 1-0 win against Madagascar on Saturday.
The Cranes striker headed into the net on 13 minutes after Luwagga Kizito had shoved off three defenders to float in a well-weighted ball at the opposite end of the 18-yard area.
However, the result that secured Uganda a date against either Mauritania or Equatorial Guinea came on the back of rivers of sweat, tension and extreme nerves among the fans.
Uganda Cranes recover
In the build-up to the game, Cranes, who had collapsed to a 2-1 first leg defeat in Madagascar, needed a 1-0 result to progress to the next stage.
But playing out for such results that are a bare minimum normally creates unnecessary tension and presents the opposition with hope if the advantage isn’t stretched into the game.
Massa out-jumps Elysee Randriamanantena to head home the winner. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
That’s the price Cranes had to pay till the final whistle —and that, simply because Massa couldn’t covert three other opportunities that came his way.
“I was not 100% fit. The most important thing was winning the game,” Massa told New Vision Sport after the game.
“I have been recovering from an injury and that’s why I missed the first leg.
“I played at 60%. I tried to fight on even when I felt uncomfortable and couldn’t run well.”
Although there were a series of anxious moments that had the hosts on the back-foot later in the second half including Noro Andramahitsi’s miscued shot, Cranes deserved their win, as their attacking and expansive approach to the game was at times irresistible.
Right from the start, the visitors showed a sense of vulnerability and none of their 13 free-kicks could make a difference.
It was a frustrating outting for Massa who fluffed his lines on several occasions. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
They conceded consecutive corners before succumbing to the goal.
Although Madagascar survived Khalid Aucho’s blockbuster minutes later, the game as a contest would literally have been over the moment Massa was presented with another opportunity on 26 minutes.
The South Africa-based striker capitalised on Denis Iguma’s brilliant run down the right, found his way into the box at the right time but had his intended shot saved by Madagascar goalkeeper Robin Bakotonirina at his feet.
The Cranes were as dominant into the second half as in the first, with Massa at the forefront of the team’s attacking play.
He miscued a shot just after the restart before seeing his header brilliantly saved by Bakotonirina.
Micho watched on nervously from the touchline as Cranes failed to kill the game off with some wastful finishing. Photo by Mpalanyi Ssentongo
Minutes after Moses Oloya’s shot had been dealt with, Massa found Luwagga Kizito with a fine ball but the Portuguese-based midfielder’s shot was thwarted.
At this stage, Massa was clearly Cranes’ only route to goal. His attacking partner Emmanuel Okwi had been abject throughout the game and had to be replaced by Hamis Kiiza.
Kiiza minutes later made his presence felt.
The Yanga striker released Massa but the Cranes star could only watch his effort cleared off the line after embarrassing Bakotonirina with a deft touch round him.
Despite his early goal, this just didn’t seem to be Massa’s day.
He fluffed two consecutive chances to the fans’ frustration.
“The fans must understand that I played with pain and despite that, I tried to give my best,” he added.
Uganda 1 Madagascar 0
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