The Uganda Cranes marked a year since they last played at the Mandela National Stadium, with an emphatic 2-0 victory over Malawi, in what was head coach Johnathan McKinstry’s first game at home.
Emmanuel Okwi gave the Cranes the lead in the 30th minute, brilliantly controlling Joseph Ochaya’s long ball before smashing it home.
Fahad Bayo sealed all the three points in the 66th minute, capitalizing on a defensive lapse by defender Lucky Malata to coolly finish past Brighton Munthali in Malawi goal.
It was a really good performance from the Cranes both as a team and as individuals. But how did they rate?
Denis Onyango (Goalkeeper) – 6.5
Another quite evening for the Cranes goalkeeper and captain, he was rarely troubled on the day but was more than able to deal with the situations that were thrown at him. He also showed good distribution of the ball, constantly starting the team’s attacking play, something which gave the team momentum in attack.
Nicolas Wadada (Right back) – 6.5
Struggled a bit at the start with the pace and trickery of Gerald Jnr Phiri who often got the better of him. He also had a couple of lapses in possession, something that almost came back to bite the Cranes. He grew stronger as the game wore on, but still, his attacking play was a bit off his usual standards.
Joseph Ochaya (Left back) – 8.0
In Ouagadougou, Ochaya struggled to keep track of the Burkina Faso attackers. Suggesting that he still needed time to get to grips with the role after Godfrey Walusimbi’s retirement.
All the doubts about him as a worthy successor were settled with his performance on Sunday. Ochaya never seemed to tire with getting up and down the wing, and his deliveries were not as bad still. He provided the assist for Okwi, while another of his long balls almost capsulated in a goal, only for Miya to squander Luwagga’s cut back.
Bevis Mugabi (Center back) – 7.0
Another one who struggled against Burkina Faso, but put in a shift as the Cranes returned to Namboole. There should have been a couple of worries when he was named as a central defender, but in an instant, Mugabi got in sync with partner Jjuuko and later Awany.
He was imposing in the air and glided across the ground at unbelievable speed. His battle with Gabadinho Mhango was one to behold, but Mugabi always came up tops.
Murshid Jjuuko (Center back) – 6.5
Jjuuko and Mugabi looked like a partnership that has been playing together for ages, with the pair complementing each other’s style. Jjuuko provided the leadership at the back but seemed to struggle against Richard Mbulu. He picked up an injury in one of the altercations with Mbulu and was subbed off in the 52nd minute.
Khalid Aucho (Midfield) – 7.5
Aucho stamped his authority on the game and came up tops on almost all the battles in the midfield. He provided the Cranes with muscle and physical presence in the middle of the park. But more importantly, he did a great job spoiling Malawi’s attack, while he was quite comfortable on the ball and gave the team direction and the right tempo in possession.
Mike Azira (midfield) – 7.5
With Aucho providing the muscle and physical presence in the middle, Azira flourished, especially in attack. He did not quite put his mark on the game in the opening half, but a superb and more improved second stanza from the midfielder also saw the Cranes enjoy their best period especially in possession.
Farouk Miya (Forward) – 6.5
He was unlucky not to get onto the score sheet as his finesse shot was agonisingly kept out by the upright. Miya showed great awareness and composure to beat his marker. Overall, he was quiet on the day but had a couple of important touches that set the team on the front foot.
Emanuel Okwi (Forward) – 8.5
The Cranes record goal scorer again came to the fore for Uganda, scoring his 26th career goal for the Cranes. Okwi showed great positional awareness, running in behind the Malawi defender. His brilliantly controlled Ochaya’s long pass and put the Cranes ahead.
He could have had a second but failed to control Azira’s clever pass. Okwi also performed his defensive duties quite well, drawing a couple of tactical fouls to stop Malawi gaining attacking momentum.
Fahad Bayo (Forward) – 8.0
A few heads were turned when Bayo was named to start ahead of Patrick Kaddu. The striker’s previous appearance for the cranes came two years ago against Sao Tome. For the majority of the game, he struggled to put his mark on the game.
His runs looked a bit off key, but they were significant in creating pockets of space for the supporting cast to run into and utilize. In the 66th minute, his relentless running paid off for him, as he was gifted a goal following some lacklustre defending by Malata, with the scoring his first goal for the Cranes senior team.
Kizito Luwagga (Forward) – 5.5
Luwagga had an evening to contend with, he had more slips than he actually stayed on his feet, and lost the ball more than anyone else on the pitch. A gloom evening was compounded further by fans cheering on when he was brought off in the 65th minute. However, it was not all gloom for the forward, as he almost bagged an assist only for Miya to fluff his shot.
Timothy Awany (Center back) – 6.0
Was dropped to the bench for the game, and only came on as a second half substitute for Jjuuko with the defender picking up a knock. Awany stabilized the defence and provided a fresh set of organisation to the backline, ably filling in for Jjuuko.
Allan Okello (Forward) – 5.5
Was handed his senior debut in the 65th minute, coming on for Luwagga. The 19 year old did not look out of touch and created a couple of nervy moments down the right. He seemed to struggle playing out wide instead of his more preferred no.10 role, but there are a lot more positives to take for him.
Taddeo Lwanga (Midfield) – Unrated
Came on as an 82nd minute substitute for Aucho. He almost made an instant contribution, but his shot from just outside the box was comfortably saved by Manthali.