Ayew scores and celebrates Ghana vs. Uganda

Micheal Azira played 45 minutes for Uganda on Tuesday, as they lost 1-0 to Ghana in their opening Group D game at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.

The Rapids midfielder started the game, played at Stade de Port-Gentil in Port-Gentil, but was subbed out at halftime for Moses Oloya, with the Cranes already trailing.

Ghana got the all-important goal 13 minutes before the interval, from the penalty spot. Andre Ayew converted the spot kick, after teammate Asamoah Gyan was clumsily dragged back by Uganda defender Isaac Isinde.

In scoring the goal, his seventh in the Nations Cup, West Ham winger Ayew passed his father’s scoring record at the event. Abedi Pele, a European Cup winner with Marseille and former African Footballer of the Year, did though win the Cup of Nations in 1982, the last such victory for Ghana.

Ghana were the better side, with the better chances. Uganda’s best effort fell to Faruku Miya, whose effort struck the outside of the post. The Black Stars posed the greater threat, with two headers from Gyan, while Ayew and Christian Atsu gave Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango work to do.

This was Uganda’s first appearance at the Cup of Nations since 1978, when they lost to Ghana in the final of that year’s tournament. They next play seven-times champions Egypt in their second group game on Saturday, to be staged inside the same arena. It follows Ghana versus Mali earlier in the day. Mali and Egypt played out a goalless draw in Tuesday’s late game.

Five players with Colorado connections have now represented their country at the Cup of Nations, though Azira is one of just two to have done so while active with the Rapids. The other was goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul who featured for Senegal at the 2008 Nations Cup in Ghana.