• Harambee Stars locks out Uganda cranes from cup of Nations

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Oct 08, 2011-

Kampala turned into a ghost city on the eve of Uganda’s 49th Independence Day celebrations as a distraught nation came to terms with a heart rending failure to end a three dacade long wait to participate in the Africa Cup Nations.

Uganda needed an outright win over Kenya. In the end however, it was a case of so near, yet so far as Kenya ruined the party for their East African neighbours with on Saturday evening at a sold out Nelson Mandela,Namboole Stadium.

In display like no other Uganda completely outplayed Kenya but fell short of breaching the fragile Kenyan defence. Scoreless it ended, as Angola sneaked through to the biennial event courtesy of 2-0 away in Guinea Bissau.

In a match of two halves Uganda was clearly the better side as Kenya doggedly hanged on as the Cranes literally laid siege on Harambee Stars for the entire second half. The high staked match began on a great tempo with the Ugandans winning a free kick and two corners within the first two minutes.

Center forward Brian Umony who was drafted in place of the expelled David Obua played his role perfectly.His incisive runs down the middle greatly exposed Stars central defence pairing of James Situma and Pascal Odhiambo.

Uganda settled first and were causing all sort of problems from the right flank with Umony and right back Nestroy Kizito giving an out of sorts Dennis Odhiambo a torrid time. Upfront, Zedekiah “Zico” Otieno experimental pairing of Dennis Oliech and Mike Baraza flopped miserably with the latter failing to operate in tandem with the pacey AJ Auxerre man.

Origi was called to action in the seventh minute after Collins Okoth conceded a foul outside the box but Pascal Ochieng standing in the defense cleared Vincent Kayizzi’s effort just on the line after Origi left his line missing a touch on the ball.

Dennis Oliech had the best chance to take Kenya ahead before the break, breaking a way from the defence only to fire wide with only Crane’s goalkeeper, Dennis Onyango to beat .

The Kenya defence was living dangerously; they only have the studious Arnold Origi who singled handedly kept the Ugandans out and saved the over 5000 Stars fans who traveled from Nairobi the blushes.

The Norway based keeper denied Kayizzi who plays for Uganda Revenue authority a second chance after he saved his right foot shot from inside the box just one minute in to the second half.

After a barren first half, the Ugandans returned into the match with all guns blazing, perhaps aware that only a win would guarantee them the much sought ticket after a 34-year wait.

Just like the first half, Uganda managed to create a couple of chances within minutes of resumption. But try as they did Umony and his strike partner Mike Sserumaga was guilty of throwing away chance after chance.

With Kenya clearly playing for a draw, Oliech cut a lone figure upfront as the team put 10 men behind the ball to prevent the Ugandans from scoring. However Oliech almost stole the win for the Stars in the 55th minute after rounding the imperious Ibrahim Sekagya but with only his name sake Dennis Onyango to beat he blazed high and wide.

Stephen Waruru who came off the bench for misfiring Kevin Ochieng put the ball at the back of the net but his celebration was cut short after the linesman pointed for an offside position.

Ugandan fans who thronged the stadium will curse James Situma who cleared a Mike Semmaga’s cross just inches to the line, after Origi failed to control the powerful cross in the 75th minute.

At the sound of the final whistle distraught Uganda players sunk to the turf and a somber mood engulfed the nation looking to qualify for their first Cup of Nations.

Uganda head coach, Bobby Williamson commended Origi for his sterling performance as he sent a passionate apology to Ugandans.

“Kenya came for a draw because they had very minimal chance of qualifying but I am really sorry for everybody in Uganda as they deserve to be in the Africa cup of nations.". Williamson however maintained he will not quit his position as Cranes head coach.

“Uganda have themselves to blame for failing to qualify for the championship as they had several chances but they failed to use them,"noted Zedekiah Otieno.

Nesta Kizito & Elvince Joshua in Kampala

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