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Emma Okwi fires Uganda to the summit
Robert Madoi
Posted: 5 months 3 weeks

Uganda defied the odds to pull off a David versus Goliath conquest over record African champions Egypt at Mandela National Stadium. The 1-0 win leaves Uganda sitting pretty atop a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying that also has Egypt, Ghana and Congo Brazzaville in the mix.

Emmanuel Okwi settled the contest seven minutes after the break when his twinkle toes created space for him within the box before firing a shot past Essam El-Hadary. The veteran Egyptain goalkeeper had beaten out a stinging drive off Okwi's boot in the first half, but was powerless on this occasion.

Interim Cranes coach Moses Basena started Derrick Nsibambi as the attack spearhead ahead of the vastly experienced Geoffrey Serunkuma. Nsibambi's youthful exuberance worried the Egyptain backline on a couple of occasions, and El-Hadary had to stretch his forty-something muscles to tip over the striker's looping header.

Earlier, Egypt thought they had drawn first blood when Soliman Mohmoud found the onion bag, but their celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee's flag. 

Egypt sent Ahmed Ramadan on for Hassan Mahmoud immediately after the break in a bid to seize the initiative, but it was Uganda that got the breakthrough courtesy of a moment of individual brilliance from Okwi. 

"It's always important for a striker to score goals. I will continue to give one hundred percent," Okwi said after the match.

Egypt coach Hector Cuper grudgingly acknowledged that Uganda merited its marginal win. "It was a difficult game. It was difficult to adapt to the pitch. We tried different formations in vain. Sometimes we can play well and sometimes bad, but we created many chances to get sometime from the game."

One of those chances fell to Mo Salah whose point blank header was expertly parried by Denis Onyango. With the reverse fixture set to take place in a few days' time, Basena has urged his charges to guard against complacency. "My appeal to the players is not to get carried away. We will be playing against a wounded animal."

The reverse fixture takes place at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria on September 5. The winner of the group shall automatically qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.