Uganda Cranes’ return to the Africa Cup of Nations ended in a 1-0 defeat to Ghana at Stade Port Gentil.
The penalty came after a moment of madness from Uganda centre back Isaac Isinde, who took his eye off the ball as he received a pass in his own penalty area and lost possession to Asamoah Gyan, who he then tugged back to concede the spotkick, Andre Ayew sent Cranes goalkeeper Denis Onyango the wrong way.
West Ham United’s Ayew tucked away the penalty to open the scoring in the 32nd minute and give Ghana a deserved lead after they had dominated the opening half.
Ghana had been the better side in the opening exchanges and picked their attacking avenue on the right side of the midfield where fullback Joseph Ochaya struggled to cope with the quick feet of Newcastle’s Christian Atsu.
One many occasions, he danced his way past Ochaya but couldn’t connect with the final pass.
Still two of his deliveries were met by Gyan’s head but Ghana’s record goal scorer failed to glance the ball inside the far post.
Cranes were at sixes and sevens with the Black Stars in control of midfield. They had Onyango to thank when he saved from Ayew as Ghana sought an early break through.
They would soon be gifted with a spot kick when Isinde dillydallied with possession and the alert Gyan nicked the ball away only to be pulled back by Isinde’s arms.
Although Gyan daramatized the fall, the spotkick was the right call and Ayew made the no mistake.
Goals often change games and Cranes were a different animal after going down.
They were instigated into going on the offensive and soon started enjoying forays in the Ghana final third.
Kizito Luwagga, who had a dreadful opening half in which deftly passed the ball to Ghana on no less than six occasions, ironically created Uganda’s brightest opening when he drove the ball 40 yards to release Farouq Miya but Standard Liege midfielder’s well-struck shot hit the foot of the post and went out for a goal kick.
Coach Micho Sredojevic rang changes in the second half introducing Moses Oloya, Geoffrey Sserunkuma and Mohammed Shaban for Mike Azira, Isaac Isinde and Luwagga respectively.
Uganda were decidedly better side in the second half and pinned the West Africans in their half but couldn’t quite force goalkeeper Razak Brimah into a telling save.
Cranes’ best opportunities after resumption were long range drives by Ochaya and Tonny Mawejje.
Ghana could have had a second but Onyango saved from point blank range an Atsu shot.
Uganda’s next opponents are Egypt on Saturday in a must-win match at the same venue.