NAIROBI, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) — Kenya’s quest to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar began with a whimper on Thursday when they were held to a 0-0 stalemate by neighbors Uganda in Nairobi.
The age-old rivals clashed in their opening Group E fixture of the second round of the CAF qualifiers, in a game that left Mali with the early advantage after beating Rwanda 1-0 on Wednesday.
Only one team of the four will advance to the third and final stage of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, with Kenya travelling to face Rwanda on Sunday, as Uganda host Mali on Monday in the second round of fixtures.
On Thursday evening in an overcast Nairobi, Uganda left the happier side after taking a point from their rivals in a game of few chances.
However, the visitors suffered injury blows with Halid Lwaliwa and captain Emmanuel Okwi leaving the pitch during the match.
Kenya started brightly and Abdallah Hassan fired his header wide after five minutes from close range, before Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic, who was taking charge of his first game since being re-appointed in July, was forced to make his first substitution three minutes later.
Defender Lwaliwa was injured tackling Kenya’s former China-based striker Michael Olunga, and Enock Walusimbi came on in his place.
The game took a controversial turn on 30 minutes when Uganda were initially awarded a penalty, but the referee reversed the decision and pointed instead to a free-kick from the edge of the box.
This came after he consulted his assistant and ruled that Joseph Okumu’s challenge had happened outside the danger area.
Joseph Ochaya stood over the ball and sent it wide, and a first half that was shaded by Kenya ended with the booking of Uganda midfielder Khalid Aucho on 40 minutes, before Okwi was injured a minute before the break.
Despite returning to the field after treatment, Okwi could not continue and Derrick Nsibambi came on for the winger one minute into the second half.
With his team struggling to impose themselves, Kenya coach Jacob Mulee hauled off Kenneth Miguna and Hassan in a double change in the 70th minute.
Boniface Muchiri and Duke Abuya came on, but the hosts could still not score, coming closest when Uganda defender Murushid Juuko denied Olunga from heading in a Masud Juma cross with a quarter of an hour to go.
At the final whistle, both teams had to settle for a share of the points in the latest chapter of an international football rivalry that began for the first time in 1926.