The Monitor (Kampala)

Uganda/Nigeria: Excellent Victory But Let's Not Lose Focus

MILLIONS of people throughout the country deservedly celebrated yesterday's impressive 2-1 defeat of West African super powers Nigeria, a result that leaves Uganda with a decent chance to qualify for a first Nations Cup since 1978.

Nigeria's famed Super Eagles and a galaxy of multi-millionaires were left stunned by a brilliant second half recovery that must surely rank among the greatest produced by this or any other Cranes side.

But those who have followed the national team's tale in previous qualification campaigns will hope the country keeps its foot firmly on ground in the knowledge that a berth in Ghana next year is far from guaranteed.

Obviously, it must be very hard to stop anyone from celebrating a victory over Nigeria, more so the circumstances under which it was achieved. Cranes went a goal down in the first half, having looked the likelier team to open the account.

But, as has become the norm in many a Uganda Cranes game, disaster struck when Lazslo Csaba's side appeared to be on top, bar the out of sorts right full back Richard Malinga. Skipper Ibrahim Sekagya, ever a calm and astute reader of the game both with and without possession, carelessly gave away the ball to - of all the 10 white Nigerian shirts - Nwankwo Kanu.

The Portsmouth striker, this time playing in a deeper role behind Yakubu Aiyegbeni and John Utaka, cooly laid on a slide rule ball for the darting Utaka to toe-poke the ball into the far corner.

Namboole was silenced in a trice and the half time mumblings of virtually everyone was that it could only get worse. It did, only that it was for Nigeria and not Uganda. Whatever Csaba told the players at half time, God knows. But the boys took to the pitch like they had the advantage.

The withdrawal of Malinga at half time was as predictable as Hannigton Kalyesubula staying on the bench and the option of Simeon Masaba certainly gave Cranes a presence of comfort in that department when the home team had to go for the kill but wary that Utaka and Yakubu - so ruthless in the first half - were going to pose a danger on the counter.

Speed of thought

Massa's first penalty owed so much to his anticipation, pace and speed of thought. Kaizer Chief's David Obua, a man who chooses his games very well, kept his head to blast the ball into the left roof of Nigeria's net. Namboole buzzed like never before. You can still feel the buzz.

The second was genuine, definitely. Again, his speed of mind and swiftness enabled him beat the Nigerian rear guard to react fastest to Assani Bajope's piercing through ball. Nigeria goalkeeper Austine Ejide appeared odds on favourite to get to the ball once Bajope's gifted boot released the ball into space. But Massa is no slouch and he duly got his foot on the ball in the nick of time, to dupe Ejide into fouling him.

Obua, the first choice penalty taker was already off the pitch injured, and and the onus this time fell to Sekagya to make amends for his role in Nigeria's goal.

Sekagya, whose last Cranes goal was against DR Congo in 2004, matched Obua's kick with an even more impressive one. Uganda is getting close, almost there. But there is a big chasm between almost and there.

The trip to Lesotho cannot be underestimated. Cranes have not scored any goal on the travel in the qualifiers and, whisper this loud, the striking dilemma remains prevalent.

Let's not get carried away.

PLAYER RATINGS

Denis Onyango.................................... 6

Looked uncertain picking crosses but wasnt to blame for goal

Richard Malinga................................... 3

Looked nervous all through and barely put a foot right.

Nestory Kizito..................................... 7

Cleared his lines well and drove forward. A sure display

Timothy Batabaire............................... 7

Was strong in the challenges and enjoyed his battle with Yakubu

Ibrahim Ssekagya................................ 6

Kept his calm to score the winner but was to blame for the goal

Noah 'Babadi' Kasule........................... 7

Had the unenvious task of facing Kanu and did a fine job. Sent off

Dan Wagaluka...................................... 7

Taiwo will continue wondering who this small man is

Assani Bajope...................................... 7

Had a hand in the 2nd penalty. Grew in confidence in latter stages

Geoffrey Sserunkuma........................... 5

Not one of his better games, was kept quiet by Shittu's frame

Geoffrey Massa.................................... 8

Won both penalties. Just edges Wagaluka for man of the match

David Obua.......................................... 7

Scored equaliser, whipped in a few crosses but left early injured

Compiled by Mark Namanya

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2007 The Monitor. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.