Emmanuel Okwi scores twice and Farouk Miya converts from the spot as Uganda shake off Lesotho in a bid to secure a place for Cameroon 2019.
2019 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS QUALIFICATION
Group L game three results
Uganda 3 Lesotho 0
Cape Verde 3 Tanzania 0
From the very start right to the end, the dominance showed – no doubt. Uganda proved a mouthful for visiting Lesotho as the two sides faced off in a key tie of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification on Saturday.
Within 11 minutes of the game, the hosts were ahead, thanks to Emmanuel Okwi's beautifully-crafted strike.
Eight minutes before the break, the heavily-marked forward was again involved, causing a penalty awarded to Uganda after he was brought down in the dreaded box. And teammate Farouk Miya did not falter, as he stepped up to send Lesotho's keeper Mohau Kuenane the wrong way to improve the lead.
The Cranes, and particularly Okwi, were not done yet. The Tanzania-based player capitalised on poor defending after great work by Edrisa Lubega on the left flank to nod past Kuenane and add gloss to a fine result on home soil.
The gulf between the Cranes and the Crocodiles was reaffirmed by Egyptian referee Amin Mohamed Omar's final whistle as Uganda took charge at the summit of Group L with undoubted conviction.
On Tuesday, this duel will play out again, this time in Maseru for the return leg.
The other two teams in the group, Cape Verde and Tanzania, will also be back in contention the same day. Taifa Stars will be looking to even the score after enduring the bitter taste of defeat dished out by the Blue Sharks on Friday in a 3-0 result.
Uganda top the log on seven points, Cape Verde in second on four, Lesotho are third-placed on two while Tanzania sit at the bottom on two points too.
At the end of Saturday's exhausting encounter, Cranes head coach Sebastien Desabre and his bench fiercely punched the air and exchanged hugs to celebrate a deserved victory.
The 42-year-old Frenchman had not won a competitive match since taking charge of the national side late December last year. The only win he registered in his first seven games at the helm was a 3-0 result in a friendly against Sao Tome and Principe in March.
After waiting for so long, Desabre will have sighed in relief after watching his side bind tact, composure and precision into a comprehensive package worth three points in front of a vociferous home crowd under glorious early evening sunshine.
The hosts proved a force to reckon with. The Crocodiles, agile but physically smaller, found a hard time feeling at home on Namboole's natural grass. Back at home, they play their games on the artificial turf of Setsoto Stadium.
In Okwi (pictured above), the Cranes had a player willed on by a desire to break the opposition wall with strength and dexterity on the right flank.
The ubiquitous forward proved such a menace for his minders that he was afforded the liberty to peel away from three opponents and turn on his favoured left foot to sweep home the opener early in the first half.
Against Tanzania last month, the Simba FC player cast a subdued figure in a game of missed chances. But here, Okwi illustrated how quickly he had shed off that cloak by emerging as arguably the best player on the Cranes's side against Lesotho.
His dynamism again proved decisive when he was bundled deep in the box after deft dribbling to gift Uganda another helping of a goal, courtesy of Miya's accuracy from the penalty spot.
But the Cranes, debuting their new home jersey, were not without flaws.
At nil-nil, goalkeeper Denis Onyango made a mess of what should have been a comfortable aerial pick for a man of his calibre.
The Mamelodi Sundowns goalstopper and former African Player of the Year took flight to collect an inswinger, but the ball slipped from his grasp and spilled to a Lesotho player, whose slow reaction with a teammate failed to punish the Ugandans and instead allowed them to recover.
Tumelo Khutlang exuded sprite and agility in the attack as the visitors made rare inroads to shake the Cranes' back, but for long periods of the game, Onyango remained undisturbed, rarely breaking sweat.
On the half-hour mark though, he was drawn into a fine stretched save when Khutlang's awkwardly bouncy low effort about 40 yards out required him to poke the ball out for a corner.
Austria-based forward Edrisa Lubega enjoyed his 70 minutes on the pitch, often giving the Lesotho back a horrid time, and then setting up Okwi for the third goal after dealing with his minder. He was given a deserved standing ovation and a pat on the back as he gave way for Patrick Kaddu.
Before scoring his second goal of the day, Okwi remained worringly down after receiving an elbow knock from captain Mafa Moremoholo. Play was briefly brought to a halt as the referee invested his attentions on the Ugandan forward. But all was good, and the goal-scorer, after making apparent peace with his attacker, was soon back on his feet to calm the home camp.
At 2-0, the visitors sometimes caught out the Cranes at the back, but Moses Maliehe's men were undone by deficiency in conviction and invention in the final third.
In the end, Sebastien Desabre (right) outsmarted his opposite Moses Maliehe
In the end, the largely one-sided contest showed on paper, and you can safely say that the final score did not flatter the Cranes.
There was a sense of deja vu here. The previous meeting of the two teams at Namboole also ended 3-0 in favour of the hosts. In that AFCON qualifier, Geoffrey Massa scored a brace while David Obua netted the third.
The Crocodiles should fly back home with no complaints. They faced a superior side, who have yet to concede a goal in this edition.
Uganda beat Cape Verde 1-0 in their opening game and were held to a goalless draw at home by neighbours Tanzania. A positive result away from the comfort of home in three days' time will surely rocket their chances of qualifying for the finals in Cameroon for a second consecutive time.
The top two teams in each group will automatically qualify.
(All photos by Mpalanyi Ssentongo)
It was sporty Saturday and all roads led to Namboole Stadium for yet another piece of continentinal footballing action.
Fans strolled up to the majestic stadium in groups and in twos on a warm afternoon.
There was definitely a touch of Ugandan culture in the buildup of this important tie.
As usually is the case, a footballing event involving the national team means good business for the strategic ones.
The buildup was punctuated with flair and colour.
As kick-off time approached, fans started to fill the stadium while entertainers did what they do best.
The Cranes looked brand-new in their new outfit, unveiled just mid-this week.
And their opponents, the Crocodiles, looked clean in their all-white outfit
Once action was underway under sweltering temperatures, the players faced off as the hosts assumed immediate charge of proceedings on the field.
The Cranes dominated possession, rarely allowing their opponents to get the ball.
The home fans injected a dollop of creativity and life from the stands as they willed their side on.
On the pitch, the home team did not disappoint.
In the end, it was the power of Emmanuel Okwi that ensured Uganda bags three points ahead of Tuesday's return leg in Lesotho.
Celebrations in Kampala! Partying through the night for sure!
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AFCON 2019 Qualifiers: Uganda 0 Tanzania 0