A second-half change by the hosts proved vital as they picked a win that takes their tally to seven points
Second-half substitute Halid Lwaliwa struck late to ensure Uganda picked up a 1-0 win over South Sudan in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Thursday at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende.
South Sudan were destined for what could have been their first point in Group B, but Lwaliwa’s 86th-minute goal denied them the point despite a strong performance against the hosts.
The Bright Stars surprisingly kept Uganda at bay for the entire first-half despite the fact Johnathan McKinstry deployed a possible strong side to face the northern neighbours.
Peter Maker, Mutwaki Abdelkarim, Rehan Angier, and Omot Sebit looked more composed at the back and managed to deal with the persistent attacks engineered by Uganda’s quartet of Farouk Miya, Kizito Luwaga, Emmanual Okwi and Derrick Nsibambi.
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Uganda would have taken a 12th-minute lead but Angier stopped Smouha SC’s Nsibambi just outside the box resulting in a free-kick. Joseph Ochaya took the resultant set piece but his effort was cleared by the Bright Stars’ wall.
McKinstry made his first change at the hour mark when he withdrew Okwi and his place was filled by youngster Allan Okello. The Paradou AC forward added power and a greater cutting edge to Uganda’s side that had previously looked blunt and wasted a number of open chances.
McKinstry’s decision to throw Lwaliwa into action paid big as the Vipers SC captain scored the goal that ended up separating the Cranes from the hard-fighting Bright Stars.
With the slim win, Uganda now have seven points and have taken huge strides towards a third straight Afcon qualification.
Uganda did not take part in any friendly during the previous Fifa break and instead chose to take a trip to Dubai for a 10-day training camp.
South Sudan, on the other hand, travelled to Cameroon and played the former African champions twice where they drew in both encounters.
As their search for a maiden Afcon qualification continues, the Bright Stars can take some encouragement from how they largely neutralised the Cranes, who rank 86 places ahead of them in the Fifa World Rankings.
The return leg will be played on November 16 at the Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi, and it will be another chance for coach Ashu Cyprian to hunt for a first group point.
Uganda Starting XI: Denis Onyango, Elvis Bwomono, Joseph Ochaya, Ronald Mukiibi, Timothy Denis Awany, Mike Azira, Khalid Aucho, Farouk Miya, William Kizito Luwagga, Derrick Nsibambi, Emmanuel Okwi.
South Sudan Starting XI: Ramadan John, Peter Maker, Mutwaki Abdelkarim, Rehan Angier, Omot Sebit, Jackson Obede, Manyumow Achol, Stephen Pawaar, Makueth Wol, Wani Ivan, Tito Okello.