IT WAS a tough day in the office for the senior national team yesterday as they were dismissed 3-0 by the Cranes of Uganda in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier first leg tie at Namboole Stadium in Kampala.
The Cranes made their intentions clear from the word go and Basia Makepe had to head over a Uganda set-piece in a third minute for a corner just a few paces from the penalty area.
Likuena, who for most of the game played in their own half, nearly caught Uganda on a counter on the eighth minute when goalkeeper, Dennis Onyango, failed to clear Motebang Sera’s shot and the ball went straight to Mabuti Potloane who squandered the chance and shot straight onto a defender.
Two minutes later Likuena had to pay the price as Emmanuel Okwi took the ball from the right side, cut inside and unleashed a powerful shot that left goalkeeper Mohau Kuenane helpless with the ball in the back of the net.
Moses Maliehe’s charges tried to get back into the match and almost caught the home side flatfooted on the half-hour mark with a counter attack but poor decision making worked against Likuena as Tumelo Khutlang chose to go for glory instead of passing to Sera who was in a better goal scoring position.
Khutlang tried to beat the experienced Mamelodi Sundowns, Onyango, goalkeeper who saved the shot for a corner.
Lesotho were once again caught on a back foot and this time around defender Basia Makepe committed a foul in the 18-yard box to leave the match official of the day with no other choice but to point to the spot on 35th minutes.
Faruku Miya made no mistake as he sent Kuenane the wrong way to extend the lead for his side when the match went into the half time break.
Immediately from the break Likuena substituted Jane Thabantso and Mabuti Potloane and introduced Kopano Tseka and Nkoto Masoabi.
Likuena once again came close to scoring on 53 minutes but were let down by poor finishing from the Royal Eagles man Masoabi.
Each time Lesotho decided went forward, they looked to pose a threat to the Ugandan defence line but lack of decisiveness in the last third of the pitch worked against them.
Uganda made their first substitute on 58 minutes pulling out Ibrahim Juma for Khalid Aucho.
Likuena’s backline was caught napping on the 63rd minute and Okwi easily headed in from the near post for his second goal of the match and wrapped up the win. The win saw Uganda return to pole position after they were temporarily displaced by Cape Verde who beat Tanzania 3-0 on Friday.
Onyango ensured that Likuena were kept at bay as he produced some good saves denying them a consolation goal.
Uganda made the second change introducing Patrick Kaddu for Lubenga Eddisa on 71 minutes while Lesotho introduced Tšotleho Jane for Sera shortly afterwards. However, it was too little too late as the substitute failed to bring any difference into the match.
Issac Mulebe was the last substitute in the match coming in for Okwi five minutes before the final whistle.
Yesterday’s loss means that Likuena has dropped from second to the third position in Group L with Uganda at the top and Cape Verde in second while Tanzania are fourth.
The return fixture of the match will be played on Tuesday at the Setsoto Stadium and starting at 18:00 hours.