New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Geoffrey Massa Is Such a Vital Figure for the Cranes Team

In fact, if Uganda is to engineer a remarkable bid of qualification in both the 2014 World Cup and 2013 Nations Cup qualifying campaigns, it could all come down to how the contributions of the Cyprus-based forward when the big games such as yesterday's explosive fixture against Senegal, come calling in the near future.

He sunk Nigeria in 2008 and did the same against Senegal.

On a chilly Saturday afternoon, the 26-year-old came off the bench, troubled Senegal back-four and from one of several darting runs, won Cranes a penalty that Godfrey Walusimbi struck home on 87 minutes to inspire Uganda to a 1-1 draw.

Although there was debate as to whether the penalty was legitimate, Coach Bobby Williamson must have been pleased with the striker's fitness and awareness ahead of next weekend's crucial Nations Cup qualifier against Congo Brazzaville.

"I am glad we managed a point. We fought back well as a team and this result will lift us ahead of the Congo match," Massa, who missed the 1-1 draw against Angola due to injury, told Sunday Vision yesterday.

For the second game in just a week, Cranes needed a late fight-back. They fell a goal behind against Angola in Luanda and fought back to secure a 1-1 draw on 87 minutes.

Against Senegal, Cranes replicated their fighting spirits and rescued this fixture, just as in Luanda, with an equalizer on 87 minutes, after Newcastle star striker Pappis Demba Cisse had helped the visitors to a first half lead on 37b minutes to guarantee a 1-1 result.

With the result that placed Uganda second in Group G of the table, three points behind leaders Senegal (4 points), Cranes also preserved their unbeaten record at home since their 1-0 defeat to South Africa in 2005.

African heavyweights Nigeria, Ghana have all fallen at Mandela Stadium before. And so did Angola, just a few months ago -in a humiliating 3-1 defeat.

What was so different that Senegal expected. The difference with them is that they dominated Cranes in their own backyard and managed a better result despite revealing rough edges earlier in the game.

Apart from Emmanuel Okwi's shot over the bar following a brilliant cross from Dan Wagaluka, Walusimbi could have helped Cranes to surprise lead had he found the target after being released by a well-weighted ball from team captain Andrew Mwesigwa.

He didn't and that tide changed with Dame Ndoye running the show for the Senegalese team.

Aside from the troubling corner he swept low that Simeon Masaba failed to clear, Ndoye was such a threat.

He rattled Masaba all afternoon and from one attack, he dribbled through a forest of Cranes legs before setting up Cisse for a deserved lead.

Cisse similarly staged a similar run but this time Nane Sadio could only shoot wide.

On evidence of their first half showing, Cranes seemed to struggle under the physical might of the West Africans. Strikers Okwi and Brian Umony were isolated from the midfield, where Patrick Ochan and particularly Martin Mutumba had an instantly forgettable game.

The Cranes however looked rejuvenated into the second half, after Massa and Moses Oloya replaced an impressive Umony and Dan Wagaluka respectively and conspired to earn Cranes a result.

Cranes looked calmer and Cisse's frustrations were evident when he was booked for a clumsy tackle on Mwesigwa.

Mwesigwa was later replaced by Hassan Wasswa after suffering a groin injury with a quarter of the game to play.

There are of course better individuals in the game, but there was no player more authoritative than Walusimbi on the day. The left-back was simply brilliant, calm-personified and disciplined.

Although Okwi missed a possible late winner, the fans left Namboole pleased with the result.

The two sides drew 1-1 in their previous meeting over ten years ago.

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