Juliet Nalukenge wheels of after putting Uganda ahead (FUFA Media)
By: Sinan Rajub Senoga
Zimbabwe 1-2 Uganda
Second half goals from Juliet Nalukenge and Tracy Jones Akiror guided the Crested Cranes to a crucial win past the Mighty Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Wolfson stadium.
Uganda came into this last group C match second on the log with nothing to settle for but a win so as to advance to the semifinals at the expense of table leaders Zimbabwe. They did exactly that!
On paper, victory seemed unlikely for Uganda especially with the team’s go-to-girl Hasifa Nassuna missing out on the first eleven.
Diminutive winger Lillian Mutuuzo and Zainah Namuleme flanked Resty Nanziri upfront. Shamirah Nalugya, Tracy Jones Akiror and Phionah Nabbumba started in a 3-man midfield.
Captain Tracy Jones Akiror was integral in the midfield (FUFA Media)
After both sides playing to a goalless stalemate in the first 45 minutes, Farida Bulega had to bite the bullet and bring on Hasifa Nassuna to ensure more intensity and creativity in the attacking department.
Nassuna who had orchestrated Uganda’s maiden win against Botswana, came on for Shamirah Nalugya 5 minutes into the second half.
5 minutes later, Juliet Nalukenge also came on replacing Resty Nanziri in another bid to surge Uganda’s attacking intent.
It only took 7 minutes for Nalukenge to make her introduction felt more distinctively.
Players mob Nalukenge in celebrations (FUFA Media)
Mutuuzo did the donkey work to tee up the strategically positioned Kawempe Muslim starlet who exquisitely slotted the ball in between the legs of the Zimbabwean goalkeeper.
Lanky forward Norah Alupo came on for Mutuuzo in the 69th minute as Bulega made her final substitution of the afternoon.
At 1-0, Uganda was on the back foot with Ruth Aturo at full work – but all counted for nothing for last year’s silver medal winners as the Crested Cranes extended their lead in the 79th minute.
Skipper Akiror was on a receiving end of a Hasifa Nassuna teasing corner kick and effortlessly nodded home to make it 2-0.
Akiror celebrates after doubling the lead (FUFA Media)
A two-goal cushion seemed a comfortable state for Uganda not until Rutendo Makore pulled one back for the Zimbabweans after heading home from a corner kick, 2 minutes to normal time.
The Full-time whistle at the Wolfson stadium meant that Bulega and her charges had clinched the coveted semi final berth only awaiting for the Group A winners.
Shadia Nankya was named Player of the Match (FUFA Media)
Defender Shadia Nankya was named Player of the match on the account of her outstanding defensive exploits throughout the 90 minutes.
On Thursday 20th September, Uganda’s COSAFA expedition will continue with a semi final encounter against defending champions South Africa who also double as the hosts.
Crested Cranes XI
Ruth Aturo (GK), Aisha Namukisa, Resty Nanziri (Juliet Nalukenge), Shadia Nankya, Viola Namuddu, Tracy Jones Akiror (Captain), Shamirah Nalugya (Hasifa Nassuna), Phionah Nabbumba, Zainah Namuleme, Grace Aluka, Lillian Mutuuzo (Norah Alupo)
Juliet Adeke (GK), Daisy Nakaziro (GK), Bridget Nabisalu, Spencer Nakachwa, Riticia Nabbosa, Shakirah Mutiibwa