Uganda Cranes have endured another disappointing African Nations Championship (CHAN) as they bowed out of the tournament at the group stages following a humbling 5-2 defeat to defending champions Morocco on Tuesday in Douala.
The Cranes went into the game in search of their first victory at the tournament since 2014, but it was not to be as they were humbled despite taking the lead inside 25 minutes.
Cranes coach Johnathan McKinstry made four changes to his starting line-up, handing Brian Aheebwa his first start of the tournament, while Vianney Ssekajugo was also recalled to the starting XI.
Captain Halid Lwaliwa who recovered from a thigh injury ahead of the game was included from the start for his first game of the tournament together with Saidi Kyeyune was included from the start after a brilliant second half against Togo.
Morocco had the better start of the two teams, pegging Uganda into their own half and had a number of brilliant opportunities.
The Cranes managed to stay in the game thanks to goalkeeper Charles Lukwago who twice pulled off brilliant saves to deny Ayoub El Kaabi twice from close range and Omar Namsaoui’s free-kick inside the first 10 minutes.
Morocco captain El Kaabi failed to find the target on another occasion while Adam Ennaffati also scuffed his opportunity inside 25 minutes.
But it’s the Cranes that took the lead against the run of play, Ibrahim Orit with a superb low driven strike from just inside the box after the Morocco defence failed to properly clear Bright Anukani’s deep cross.
Morocco continued with their dominance even after going behind and had a couple of penalty shouts before the referee finally vouched and pointed to the spot after the ball looked to strike Mustafa Mujuzi’s hand off Ennafati’s hand.
El Kaabi stepped up to bury the resultant penalty down the middle of the goal to level the score at the death of the first half.
Morocco started off where they left for the second half, and six minutes after the restart, Soufiane Rahimi slotted home Abdelmounaim Boutouil’s cut back to put the spanner in the works regards Uganda’s chances of qualification for the quarter-finals.
At the hour mark, Uganda had penalty shout which was waved off by the referee after Orit’s shot seemed to strike Hamza El Moussaoui’s arm.
Moments later, Lukwago produced a stunning save to deny El Kaabi from close range following a defensive mix up between Lwaliwa and Mujuzi allowed the striker to race through on goal.
That was a precursor for a couple of defensive howlers committed by the Cranes defence in the final 35 minutes.
In the 71st minute, Morocco put the game beyond the Cranes with El Moussaoui on hand to punish Uganda after he caught defender Iguma on the ball after Lukwago had initially done well to save from Rahimi.
Iguma was again the culprit as his poor clearance fell to the feet of El Moussaoui who set up Rahimi to score Morocco’s fourth on the day and surely put the final nail in Uganda’s coffin with 10 minutes to go.
The Cranes pulled a goal back in the 84th minute, Kyeyune scoring with a brilliant free-kick from just outside the box.
Uganda’s poor evening was further compelled after Lukwago was unlucky to turn the ball into his own net as Abdellah Khafifi attempted a low cross.
Elsewhere, Rwanda will join Morocco as the qualifiers for the quarter-finals after they registered a 3-2 victory over Togo.
Morocco advance top of the group on seven points, Rwanda is second on five points, while Uganda and Togo and Uganda crash out with four points and one point respectively.
How they lined up
Uganda Cranes XI: Charles Lukwago (GK), Denis Iguma, Aziz Kayondo, Denis Iguma, Halid Lwaliwa (C), Shafik Kagimu, Saidi Kyeyune, Bright Anukani, Vianney Ssekajugo, Ibrahim Orit, Brian Aheebwa
Subs: Tom Ikara (GK), Hassan Muhamood, Eric Ssenjobe, Tonny Mawejje, Ojera Joackiam, Paul Willa, Joel Mutakubwa (GK), Legason Nafiani Alionzi, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Paul Mbowa, Abdul Watambala
Morocco XI: Anas Zniti (GK), Omar Namsaoui, Hamza El Moussaoui, Mohammed Ali Bemammer, Soufiane Bouftini, Abdelmounaim Boutouil, Adam Ennaffati, Yahya Jabrane, Ayoub El Kaabi (C), Reda Jaadi, Soufiane Rahimi
Subs: Mohamed Amsif (GK), Zouhair Laaroubi (GK), El Mehdi Karnass, Ismail Mokadem, Zakaria Hadraf, Larbi Naji, Walid El Karti, Abdellah Khafifi, Reda Slim, Ismail Khafi, Noah Wail