KAMPALA – A troublesome, resilient and plucky monkey was lifted off Sebastian Desabre’s back after the Cranes crushed Lesotho 3-0 to storm back to the top of Group L of the African Nations Cup qualifiers.
Goals by man of the match Emmanuel Okwi and deputy skipper Farouk Miya propelled Uganda to seven points, three clear of Cape Verde, which a day earlier dismissed Tanzania with an identical scoreline.
Victory over the miniature Southern African nation puts Cranes in command of their qualification destiny at the half way stage of the campaign, and, in the short run, assuages mounting on the Frenchman.
Lingering question marks over Desabre’s suitability for the Cranes hot seat must go into abeyance as his team prepares for Tuesday’s reverse fixture in Maseru.
Though the much travelled tactician made only one change from the team that failed to spark in drawing one-all with Tanzania’s Taifa Stars at Mandela National Stadium last month, a couple of tactical tweaks he made prior to, and during the game showed the former Ismaily coach’s marbles are firmly in his grasp.
FC Ried front man Edrisa Lubega was an inspired selection to lead the front line, with his pace and power, more than compensating for his lack of panache. It was Lubega’s power which allowed him to brush aside the attention of two Lesotho defenders to set up Okwi for his second on 63 minutes.
Despite Uganda’s fortified position, the Cranes must guard against complacency in Tuesday’s rubber as Lesotho’s Shirt 18 was a constant menace in midfield.
Early in the second half, the diminutive playmaker who plays his trade with Black Leopards in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League was threatening to overrun Cranes’ midfield. Desabre deserves a pat on the shoulder for introducing Ibrahim Saddam Juma on 60 minutes.
The KCCA FC midfield general helped plug holes that had been created by deploying Joseph Ocaya, who for all intents, is a wide man, as Cranes’ third midfielder.
Since Uganda is ranked 62 places above Lesotho in FIFA rankings, anything other than an attacking approach in Maseru will be frowned upon by Cranes fans.
Nevertheless, Desabre ought to take into account the fact that Lesotho are at home and held Cape Verde, who are ranked 16 places above Uganda to a 1-1 draw.
Denis Iguma’s starring role in central defense where he did not set a foot wrong provides the coach with a selection dilemma. But Murushid Jjuuko’s return from suspension should allow for Iguma to move into a holding role in midfield.