NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 29 – Uganda joined Kenya and Tanzania in the East African contingent missing on next year’s Africa Cup of Nations after losing by a solitary goal to Malawi, who earned their first ticket to the competition since 2010.
Richard Mbulu scored the game’s only goal in the first half as Malawi completed a turnaround to finish second in the group with nine points and seal their place in Cameroon.
The East Africans will rue their missed chances especially with their performance in the last three games.
They would have easily qualified last year in Nairobi when they played against South Sudan but lost that game 1-0 thanks to Gor Mahia striker Tito Okello’s penalty.
Last week, they drew 0-0 with Burkina Faso at home and when they needed a point away to Malawi, they couldn’t pick any as they lost out on a ticket to Cameroon.
Malawi scored on the quarter hour mark when Mbulu dived in to head a well delivered cross from Stanley Sanudi on the right, sneaking infront of defender Ronald Mukiibi.
It was a dream start for the home side who were seeking victory in a do or die match. Mbulu almost doubled his and Malawi’s tallt in the 22nd minute when he glanced in a header from another cross, but this time keeper Dennis Onyango made a fine save.
Malawi were forced into a change when Robin Ngalande was stretchered off injured and in his place came Francisco Madinga.
Uganda were piling in the pressure, forcing Malawi to play on the backfoot. But the home side defended with their hearts. At the stroke of halftime, Uganda were also forced to make a change with Mukiibi forced out injured and in came their Under-20 captain Gavin Kizito.
The Ugandans made a double attacking change 10 minutes into the second half, Allan Okello and Taddeo Lwanga coming on for Mike Azira and Faruku Miya.
They had a chance in the 57th minute when Joseph Ochaya floated in an inviting cross from the left but Ibrahim Orit’s connection with the keeper out of goal after missing the cross going wide.
The Ugandans survived a Malawi onslaught on the hour mark when Sanudi made a determined run on the right after a good turn off his marker, but his eventual shot came off the upright with keeper Onyango left stunned.
Mbulu was again at the heart of a chance in the 66th minute when he rose in to head another cross, but this time the effort went straight into Onyango’s arms. The Ugandan goalkeeper had suddenly become busy with Malawi doing their best to attack.
He made a double save in the 72nd minute, blocking a shot from Mbulu off a tight angle before also rising to block away Gerald Phiri’s attempt on the rebound.
Precious Sambani attempted to catch the keeper off his line with a speculative shot from distance, but the effort went just over the bar.
With the clock ticking, Malawi looked to shut shop when they brought off striker Peter Banda for defender Denis Chembezi to seal off the win.
-Much of this report is derived from CAF Online