KAMPALA, Uganda, Aug 30- National football team Harambee Stars played to a barren draw with hosts Uganda Cranes in an international friendly match played at the Namboole Stadium in Kampala, as both sides warmed up for their respective weekend 2017 African Cup of Nations Qualifying matches.
The Cranes will be hosting Comoros at the same pitch on Sunday in a match that holds them their much needed ticket to the Nations Cup after almost four decades while Kenya will be traveling to Lusaka to face 2012 champions Zambia on Saturday in a dead rubber match.
Both coaches fielded their best teams in the important FIFA friendly with Uganda head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic eager to give his best 11 an opportunity to open up their muscles ahead of the all-important tie over the weekend against Comoros.
The only first team absentee on the match day squad was goalkeeper Dennis Onyango who plies his trade with Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa as he had not yet arrived in camp.
Regular starters Joseph Ochaya, Faruku Miya and Tony Mawejje started the match on the bench with Gor Mahia’s Godfrey Walusimbi drafted at left back while Moses Oloya and Khalid Aucho were left to battle in midfield with Tottenham Hotspur midfielder and Kenyan skipper Victor Wanyama.
Kenya’s head coach Stanley Okumbi tweaked his back line with the return of David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng, preferring him to partner with David ‘Calabar’ Odhiambo at the heart of defense while Musa Mohammed played on the right.
Wanyama partnered with Anthony Akumu in midfield while Zesco United’s front man Jesse Were started upfront alongside Francis Kahata with the on-form Michael Olunga relegated on the bench having arrived in Kampala on the morning of the match day.
The first half was a cagy affair with none of the two sides affording even a single shot on target. The game was reduced to half chances, a chunk of the contest being in the midfield.
In the 22nd minute, Emmanuel Okwi slalomed his way past three Kenyan markers on the right, drove into the box but stumbled when he was almost pulling the trigger, with his appeals for a penalty falling on deaf ears.
Wanyama had Kenya’s first opportunity with his shot from 25 yards out after Eric Johannah rolled a freekick for him went over.
Cranes Captain Geoffrey Massa had the best chance in the opening half with his well taken freekick from the edge of the box going inches wide.
In the second half, Micho started off by bringing in five new faces, Kizito Luwagga, Mawejje, Miya, Ochaya, and Geoffrey Sserunkuma coming on with Massa, Walusimbi, Okwi, Yunus Ssentamu and Nicholas Wadada all coming off.
Okumbi responded with only one change, Kahata paving way for Danson Kago.
Miya had the first chance for the Cranes in the second period, with his weak volley from a Moses Oloya cross being easily picked up by Boniface Oluoch in the Stars goal.
But from then, it was the hosts who seemed hungrier and pressed more for goal. Substitute Kago had an effort in the 53rd minute but his shot from the right went wide.
Johannah had an even better chance five minutes later, but his effort at lobbing the ball over the advancing keeper went wide after being sent through by Were.
In the 65th minute, Aucho was called into a goalline clearance after Ayub Timbe had beaten the Cranes keeper on the right having been fed through by Wanyama who overpowered Mawejje in midfield to steal the ball.
Three minutes later, Johannah was sent through by Jesse Were and as he strode into the box, he was brought down at the edge of the box by Murshid Juuko, but Timbe’s effort with the freekick went awfully over.
With the clock ticking, Okumbi brought on Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma paving way for Aboud Omar while new boy Joshua Lelan earned his first cap, coming on for Musa Mohammed.
Michael Olunga was also given a run in coming on for Were while John Mark Makwatta also came in for Johannah.