Uganda Cranes suffered a major blow in their quest of reaching the African Nations Championship (CHAN) quarter-finals after they fell to tournament debutants Togo 2-1 at the Stade de la Reunification in Douala on Friday evening.
It was a rollercoaster of a game which saw Paul Mbowa scoring an own goal, while Saidi Kyeyune and Yendoutie Nane scored blockbusters.
The Cranes’ wait for victory at CHAN continues as they have now gone 10 games without winning at the tournament finals.
Uganda Cranes head coach Johnathan McKinstry made four changes to his line up, handing starts to Denis Iguma, Tony Mawejje, Ibrahim Orit and Muhammad Shaban in place of Paul Willa, AbdulKarim Watambala, Vianney Ssekajugo and Milton Karisa who missed the game through injury.
Togo coach Jean-Paul Yaovi Abalo made wholesale changes to his team, including seven new faces from the team that started against Morocco in their first game.
The game had a lively start, with both teams creating big opportunities inside five minutes. Defender Aziz Kayondo had the first shot of the game, but his effort from outside the box sailing wide of the target.
Togo had the better chance though, striker Ismail Ouro-Agoro’s header from captain Marouf Tchakei’s cross cleared off the line by Cranes defender Paul Mbowa.
The match did not let up in terms of intensity, but either team started to struggle with the final ball as chances were limited to efforts from range.
Bright Anukani and Ibrahim Orit tried their luck from range, but neither of the shots came close to troubling the goalkeeper.
Togolese defender Bilal Moussa who was starting for the first time in the tournament also gave it a try from over 40-yards, but Ugandan goalkeeper Charles Lukwago saved comfortably.
With halftime looming, Togo was forced into a substitution, midfielder Kokouvi Amekoudji limping off with a thigh injury and was replaced by Gnama Akate.
At the restart, McKinstry decided that Mawejje who captained the side on the day had run his race, and was replaced by Saidi Kyeyune.
Three minutes into the second half, Uganda fell behind in the game, after defender Mbowa turned the ball into his own net.
The goal shook the game back into life, and the Sparrow Hawks nearly doubled their lead from a quick counter-attack, but Ouro-Agoro‘s low cross was too heavy for Yendoutie Nane.
Kyeyune then produced a moment of magic with a beltor from over 35 yards out that flew into the back of the net off the crossbar in the 51st minute.
The game turned into a competition of classics. In the 57th minute, Nane restored Togo’s lead with another superb left-footed volley from just outside the box which beat Lukwago at his near post.
With 20 minutes to go, Lukwago pulled off a brilliant save to keep out Ouro-Agoro’s effort following another quick counter-attack from the Togolese.
Kyeyune almost produced another spectacular but his volley from inside the penalty area flew over the crossbar.
Then Shaban and second-half substitute Vianney Ssekajugo nearly combined, but the former’s cross was beyond his compatriot.
Shaban again nearly used his predatory skills to the Cranes advantage, but he failed to have clean contact with Iguma’s cross as the Togolese held their breath in the closing moments of the game.
The victory blew group C wide open as Togo climbed second on the table with three points, a point behind leaders Morocco, while the Cranes are now bottom of the group on one point.
Uganda faces defending champions Morocco in their final group game at the Stade de la Reunification in Douala and will need a victory if they are to stand a chance of progress.
Togo on the other hand play against Togo in their final group game on Tuesday, January 26, in Limbe.
How they lined up
Uganda Cranes XI: Charles Lukwago (GK), Aziz Kayondo, Denis Iguma, Musitafa Mujuzi, Paul Mbowa, Shafiq Kagimu, Tony Mawejje (C), Bright Anukani, Ibrahim Orit, Joachim Ojera, Shaban Muhamad
Togo XI: Abdoul-Moubarak Aigba (GK), Abdoul Sabourh Bode, Messan Toudji, Abdoul Halimou Sama, Bilal Moussa, Kparo Jarry Ahoro, Marouf Tchakei, Kokouvi Dodzi Amekoudi, Semiou Tchatakora, Yendoutie Richard Nane, Ismail Ouro-Agoro