A bizarre decision by referee Daniel Bennett at the death ensured Uganda and Ghana played out a barren draw in their penulimate game in Group E of the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifying for Africa on Saturday.
The result at the Mandela National Stadium in Kampala hands group leaders Egypt, who host Congo on Sunday, a clear advantage to end their 28-year wait for a World Cup appearance with victory at home.
Saturday’s result moves the Cranes and Black Stars up to eight and six points respectively, with the Pharaohs one point ahead of Moses Basena’s troops – the North Africans have a game in hand.
Ghana showcased early signs of jitters with the Black Stars defence found wanting in the sixth minute, allowing Emmanuel Okwi a run at goal. Daniel Amartey taking one for the team to stop the playmaker in his tracks.
Farouk Miya sent the resulting free-kick over the crossbar as the Cranes showcased early intent.
The game sparked into life soon after with successive chances at either end of the pitch. Richard Ofori was called into action to deny the hosts before Thomas Partey guided his shot into the side-netting at the other end of the pitch on 18 minutes.
Amartey had the beating of fellow skipper Denis Onyango in the 34th minute, but his header attempt was chalked off with the assistant’s flag raised for offside.
Ghana continued to grow in confidence and ended the half the stronger of the two teams.
The Black Stars carried this momentum into the the second half with Patrick Twumasi seeing his free-kick attempt fly inches over the crossbar just short of the hour mark.
The best chance of the match fell to Uganda’s Derrick Nsibambi in the 65th minute, but forward failed to hit the target from point-blank range to the surprise of the home fans.
The miss would prove a defining moment for the Cranes who looked a nervous outfit throughout the course of the clash.
Ghana had the ball in the back of the net with the final kick of the match, but again the assistant’s flag would deny them, much to the dismay of coach Kwasi Appiah and his technical team who confronted the match officials following the final whistle.
Uganda: Onyango – Isinde, Mawejje, Okwi, Kizito (Ochaya 73′), Nsibambi (Serunkuma 67′), Iguma, Wakiro, Walusimbi, Wasswa, Miya (Mutyaba 62′)
Ghana: Richard Ofori – Daniel Opare, Lumor Agbenyenu, Nicholas Opoku, Daniel Amartey – Ebenezer Ofori, Alfred Duncan (Raphael Dwamena 56′), Kingsley Sarfo (Patrick Twumasi 51′), Thomas Partey, Boakye-Yiadom, Frank Acheampong (Joseph Attamah 86′)