Substitute Saidi Kyeyune scored a goal worthy of winning any match but it was not enough as Togo responded in familiar fashion to leave Uganda needing a hero this week.
The 2-1 defeat on Friday night in Douala, Cameroon left the Cranes needing to beat Morocco, a team that eliminated them at the same stage in 2014, on Tuesday, to progress from the group.
Richard Nane’s 57th minute half volley restored the Hawks lead after Kyeyune had levelled matters following an own goal by Paul Mbowa just after restart.
Group C standings now have the Moroccans, who are also the defending champions, on top with four points, Togo three, Rwanda two and Uganda one. Tournament rules dictate that should two teams tie in pursuit of progressing from the group, head-to-head record between them will take precedent ahead of goal difference.
That simply means that Uganda can qualify for the first time in five editions with any victory over Morocco, and that is the message McKinstry is drumming into his players. “We are not out of the competition,” he said in a post-match interview, “If we beat Morocco we will qualify for the quarterfinals.
“We played very well and created many chances. In the first half, I thought we were the team on top but Togo caused some problems to us.” Left back Aziz Kayondo, midfielder Bright Anukani, Ibrahim Orit and striker Shaban Muhammad all had sight at Abdoul-Moubarak Aigba’s goal.
But it is the Togolese who almost scored; Agoro Auro’s header was cleared off the line by Mbowa with Cranes goalkeeper Charles Lukwago beaten inside two minutes.
Togo eventual winner, Nane, also almost scored an own goal when a shot deflected off him and inches wide of his goalkeeper’s near post to go into the break goalless.
“In the second half,” explained McKinstry, “An own goal but I noticed it’s (incident) not in the highlights but I’d love to see what we believe was a free kick for a foul on our centre back just before the corner was awarded.
“But it is what it is. And then two great goals from each team. In the second half we had more of the ball but couldn’t get the goal that we needed.”
Tonny Mawejje, one of the four changes McKinstry made from the team that started against Rwanda, was tiring and on came Kyeyune in the second half.
The impact was immediate after Togo went ahead when Samiou Tchatakora’s header off a corner on 48 minutes sailed in via Mbowa’s head. Kyeyune picked the ball in the final third, nudged it forward and loaded a shot that powered in off the crossbar for 1-1 on 51 minutes.
The strike will surely make it among goals of the tournament but the shine was taken off.
“Now we have to pick ourselves up because we know (that) Morocco are a team that can be beaten,” emphasized McKinstry.
Another slow start. Eventually caught cold for the second goal then rescued by Patrick Mbowa clearance off the line. 4.5/10
His versatility and experience got him the nod ahead of Paul Willa. Made a jittery start. 4.5/10
A slightly better show from the first game but little going forward. 5/10
He was not as imposing as he was in the first game. 4.5/10
Not comfortable with the numerous crosses as evidenced in the own goal conceded. 4/10
Always willing to receive the ball and initiate play. But, he is never going to control games the way he did at the 2019 Cecafa championship. 5/10
Few flashes of pace and trickery but rarely got onto the ball. 5/10
Tried to take the team forward. But it is common knowledge that he thrives in a deeper role. 5/10
Playmaker was more involved and played some neat balls to the forwards. Shaban received one such but was crowded out. 5/10
His style of play means he’ll chase and fight for every lost cause although he clearly lacked sharpness after a long term injury. Made a number of wrong decisions. 4/10
Another case of a wide player giving fans the impression he was close to decisive contribution until the game ended. 5/10
Made Chan debut in 2014 and threatened to take Cranes to dreamland with a magnificent strike. 6.5/10
Seems to only thrive as the go-to-man for his club sides. 3.5/10
Hardly visible after his shirt number was raised in place of defender Mbowa as the Cranes tried to chase the game. 3/10
Coach Johnny Mckinstry
After two expensive trips to Dubai last year and a four nations pre-Chan tournament, he is yet to convince he knows all his players’ best attributes. 3/10
Additional reporting by Elvis Senono