CHAN newcomers Togo upset Uganda, Rwanda hold misfiring Morocco

Togo overcame the absence of coronavirus-hit coach Jean-Paul Abalo to upset Uganda 2-1 Friday and boost hopes of reaching the African Nations Championship (CHAN) quarter-finals at the first attempt.

A Paul Mbowa own-goal gave Togo an early second-half lead in Cameroon Atlantic city Douala only for Ugandan Saidi Kyeyune to equalise just three minutes later through a 40-metre thunderbolt.

Togolese Yendoutie Nane scored the match-winner on 57 minutes with a looping half-volley that dropped behind goalkeeper Charles Lukwago.

It was among the best group matches of the 14 so far in the tournament for home-based footballers and compensated spectators for a dull 0-0 draw between title-holders Morocco and Rwanda a few hours before.

Morocco, who are hoping to become the first back-to-back winners of the competition, top Group C after two rounds with four points while Togo have three, Rwanda two and Uganda one.

Before the Nations Championship kicked off last weekend, most pundits tipped Morocco to finish first and be accompanied to the quarter-finals by Uganda.

But a Ugandan team coached by Johnny McKinstry from Northern Ireland must win their final group fixture, against Morocco next Tuesday, to have any chance of avoiding elimination.

That will be a tall order because although Morocco are misfiring in attack, they boast a tight defence that has not conceded in two outings.

While Uganda face an unexpectedly early battle for survival, Togo, the only Nations Championship debutants in the sixth edition, were celebrating a success born of never-say-die spirit.

The Sparrowhawks have experienced triumph and tragedy ahead of the first major male Confederation of African Football tournament in Cameroon for 49 years.

They scraped past Benin, then stunned 2018 runners-up Nigeria to reach the 16-team finals before two of their stars died -- Kossi Koudagba from malaria and Toyi Awi after collapsing clutching his chest.

Abalo was the second CHAN coach in two days, after Democratic Republic of Congo handler Florent Ibenge, who had to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19.

Morocco won much more possession that Rwanda in the first match of the double-header, but created few clearcut chances against well-organised opponents.

The frustrations of the defending champions showed midway through the second half when captain Ayoub el Kaabi, the nine-goal star of the 2018 tournament, fouled a Rwandan and was yellow-carded.