Status quo as Cranes bow out of CHAN tournament at Group Stage

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Sinan RAJUB SENOGA

So close but so far! The Uganda Cranes once again bottled a glorious chance to progress to the knock stages of the CHAN tournament after falling 3-1 to Cote D’Ivoire in the final group game.

Heading into the final game, the Cranes were leading the Group B table with four points and only needed at least a draw so as to seal a berth in the quarter finals but agonizingly fell to the Elephants and consequently bowed out prematurely for the sixth successive time.

Goals from Sankara Karamoko, Vignon Ouotro and Aubin Kouame gave the Ivorians a much needed result while Moses Waiswa pulled one back for the Cranes.

The Ivorians who needed nothing but victory in this one, started the proceedings on a high and almost scored through Ouotro’s header from a corner but Frank Ssebufu cleared the ball off the line in the 5th minute.

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Two minutes later Ssebufu almost scored with a header from Derrick Ndahiro’s fine delivery but effort was well dealt with by the steady Ivorian keeper Charles Ayayi.

Karamoko broke the deadlock with a close range header from Constant Wayou’s free kick in the 11th minute.

Ouotro made it 2-0 with a clinical finish following Habib Cirille’s long defense splitting pass in the 27th minute.

Uganda Cranes were handed a lifeline after Rogers Mato was brought down in the penalty area by Cirille in the 32nd minute and a penalty was awarded.

Moses Waiswa flawlessly converted and gave Uganda a hope of at least a draw or probably a comeback victory.

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Kenneth Ssemakula almost got the leveller at the stroke of halftime from a well delivered free kick but Ayayi saved his header and ensured a 2-1 halftime lead for the Elephants.

The second half started with a Uganda double sub as Travis Mutyaba and Titus Ssematimba came on for Karim Watambala and Ssebufu respectively.

Both players added urgency in the offensive department. Karisa had an opportunity to score but Ayayi saved same as Mato whose long range effort was parried away for a corner by the experienced Ivorian in goal.

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Mutyaba also had a try at goal on 55 minutes but Ayayi saved while Mato was on the receiving end of an interplay between Mutyaba and Karisa but his effort was disappointingly feeble to bother Ayayi.

Micho threw on Senkatuka for Waiswa in the 65th minute probably to add a striker figure in the crowded Ivorian box.

Ssematimba was set up by Karisa but Ayayi was well stationed to save the goal bound effort from the Wakiso Giants offensive midfielder in the 68th minute.

The desperate Cranes kept pushing for an equalizer but agonizingly conceded the third goal against the run of play.

Karamoko was in a counterattack situation and managed to set up Kouame who flawlessly put the ball beyond a hapless Alionzi Nafian. The last nail in the Cranes coffin.

Micho reacted by bringing on wingers Moses Aliro and Ibrahim Orit for defenders James Begisa and Gift Fred to add more fire power on 81 minutes but it was too little too late.

Uganda’s last big chance at the tournament fell to Mutyaba who almost scored from a free kick just outside the box in the 89th minute but his left footed strike hit the cross bar.

End of road for Uganda once again. The final whistle in Baraki, Algiers, Algeria meant Uganda finished third on the table while Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire progressed with six and four points respectively.

Uganda Cranes XI; Alionzi Nafian, James Begisa, Derrick Ndahiro, Gift Fred, Geoffrey Wasswa, Kenneth Ssemakula, Moses Waiswa, Karim Watambala, Milton Karisa, Frank Ssebufu, Rogers Mato

Subs Used; Travis Mutyaba, Titus Ssematimba, Nelson Senkatuka, Moses Aliro, Ibrahim Orit

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