Fahad Bayo’s first half strike is all that the Uganda Cranes needed to oust rivals Rwanda for the Pearl of Africa’s maiden victory of the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification campaign.
The Ashdod FC forward showcased incredible resilience and energy to pounce on a loose ball in the box in the match played at the Nyamirambo Stadium on Thursday evening.
For long spells of the opening half, the home team looked livelier, moving the ball faster and dominating possession, but failing to master clear-cut scoring chances.
At 18 minutes, Rwanda striker Medie Kagere spanked wide across to waste a decent opportunity after good work by Rafael York.
Left-back Isaac Muleme’s beautiful cross was brilliantly punched away by the Amavubi Stars Goalkeeper Emery Mvuyekure to deny Bayo the opener after 36 minutes played.
In the added minutes of the opening stanza, two minutes after Uganda’s goal, midfielder Haruna Niyonzima almost grabbed the equalizer but his blocked shot went straight into Charles Lukwago’s hands.
Bobosi Byaruhanga had a decent chance five minutes after the restart but could only watch on as his shot sailed wide off the mark.
Three minutes later, Kagere missed a good chance for a leveller missing a header after Kevin Muhire’s brilliant cross.
At the hour mark, the experienced Niyonzima poorly controlled a good through ball to miss Rwanda’s equalizer.
Two minutes later, Uganda missed a glorious chance to extend Uganda’s lead after Steven Mukwala’s poor header missed the target.
Muhadjir Hakizimana had a good chance to score from the freekick but his effort was lame and it sailed wide.
Head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s boys managed the rest of the game well with proper defending as they saw out the entire 90.
The victory temporarily took Uganda to the apex with five points ahead of Mali (four) and Kenya (two) who square it up later in the night.
But Mali regained their lead after a 5-0 thrashing of Kenya at Stade Adrar in Agadir in Morocco.
Rwanda will hope to avenge the defeat in three days with a return leg at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende on Sunday.
How they lined up
Rwanda: Emery Mvuyekure (GK), Emmanuel Imanishimwe, Solomon Nirisalike, Fitina Omborenga, Rwatubyaye, Medi Kagere, Haruna Niyonzima(c), Kevin Muhire, Rafael York, Jacques Tuyisenge, Olivier Niyonzima.
Substitutions: Blaise Nishimwe, Muhadjir Hakizimana, Iradukunda Jean, Djabel Manishimwe, Thierry Manzi, Yannick Mukunzi, Eric Ndayishimiye(GK), Denis Rukundo, Ange Mutsinzi.
Uganda Cranes: Charles Lukwago(GK), Enock Walusimbi, Denis Iguma, Isaac Muleme, Timothy Awany, Khalid Aucho(C), Taddeo Lwanga, Moses Waiswa, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Steven Mukwala, Fahad Bayo.
Substitutions: Ismail Watenga (GK), Alionzi Nathian(GK), Innocent Wafula, Mustapha Kizza, Godfrey Wasswa, Aziz Kayondo, Livingstone Mulondo, Najib Fesali, Yunus Sentamu, Ibrahim Orit, Julius Poloto, Shafik Kagimu, Cromwell Rwothomio, Martin Kizza.