Mali and Uganda will battle for the single slot from Group E in the next round of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after both picked up victories in their round four matches on Sunday.
Mali beat Kenya 1-0 at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi to remain top of the group with 10 points while Uganda beat Rwanda by a similar score in Kampala to remain second with eight points heading into the last two rounds.
Mathematically, Kenya and Rwanda have both bowed out of contention.
In Nairobi, Kenya showed an improved performance but it was never enough to pick three points at home and put their campaign back on track.
The home side started well and Duke Abuya had the first chance of the game, forcing the Malian keeper into a fine save in the eighth minute when he struck a shot from inside the box after being teed up by Michael Olunga.
Three minutes later, Olunga was at the end of another chance for Stars when he rose to meet a Muchiri cross but his header flew over the bar.
The home boys continued dominating, playing well and winning the battle in midfield, Kenneth Muguna and Richard Odada forming a better partnership in midfield.
Off a counter attack, Stars should have been one up in the 20th minute but Muchiri’s curling effort was parried away by the keeper after being out through by Olunga.
Mali were limited in their chances and the only time they came close was at the stroke of halftime when Diadie Samassekou’s looping header from Musa Djenepo’s cross hit the bar and keeper Bwire bounced up to collect the rebound.
At the start of the second half, Stars should have grabbed the lead when Olunga found some space to slash in a low cross into the box, but Hassan who was sliding in at the back post could not arrive in time to tap it home.
Mali then found a chance and Kone slapped the ball home from inside the box off a cutback on the left.
Uganda 1-0 Rwanda
In Kampala, Fahad Bayo scored the lone goal as Uganda beat Rwanda by a solitary goal. Bayo headed home from a corner to hand the Cranes maximum points at home.