Picture this. Vipers lost their Caf Champions League preliminary round first leg 1-0 at home to Sudanese giants Al Hilal. Prior to the game, coach Fred Kajoba spoke of the need for goals.
“They came vowing to beat us at home but let me make it clear; our target is to win here, we want to do so with more goals,” Kajoba said.
At St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende, Vipers laboured for 65 minutes as Kajoba chose a lone striker in Cesar Manzoki with the Congolese looking isolated as Milton Karisa, his support from wide right, was pedestrian, lasting an eye-sore 43 minutes.
They came to life in the final 35 minutes when Dan Sserunkuma came on to partner Manzoki along with the creativity of David Bagoole and Paul Mucureezi.
Then came Sunday’s return encounter in Omdurman. Needing to go for broke and depleted by exclusion due positive Covid-19, Kajoba opted to pair Manzoki and Sserunkuma at the front from the start.
Bagoole and Ibrahim Orit were tasked with providing the opportunities. However, Mucureezi, provider of three chances off the bench at home, was omitted.
Overall, the team improved greatly from the first encounter and you could put this down to a few things. Firstly, Vipers looked jittery at home and now had nothing to lose while Al Hilal had everything to gain.
Al Hilal, opting to protect the gains from Kampala, troubled the reshuffled backline that had Rahid Toha come in for captain Halid Lwaliwa, but failed to convert.
The 27-time Sudan league champions could have been hit with a sucker punch had Jamil Kalisa and Sserunkuma not squandered gilt-edged chances.
The latter failed to make a clean connection on a low cross from 12 yards. Disaster struck in the 62nd minute as Dani Al Dhahi clipped the ball over an on-rushing goalkeeper Fabien Mutombora.
Vipers now needed to score twice. Enter Kajoba. Young right back Joseph Dhata came on for Sserunkuma just before they conceded.
With 20 minutes to go, U20 striker Najib Yiga replaced Manzoki. Plainly, Kajoba booted his two most experienced strikers for upstarts when hunting two goals, yes two goals.
Mucureezi would then replaced Disan Galiwango who started the game as a left wingback. Perhaps, he didn’t need to exhaust his five substitutions quota. The absentees made it hard to find impact replacements.
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Some players who tested positive for Covid-19 were left home though the club is yet to release a statement. These included Lwaliwa, Karim Watambala, Milton Kariisa, Abraham Ndugwa and Livingston Mulondo.
In the end, it only felt like the mix wasn’t right, again.
Vipers have to wait another year for another shot, like it’s always been after another attempt ended meekly.
KAJOBA’ S SELECTION
VIPERS’ XI IN FIRST LEG
Fabien Mutombora (GK)
Bashir Asiku, Disan Galiwango (65′ Paul Mucureezi) Halid Lwaliwa (C), Geoffrey Wasswa, Siraje Ssentamu, Jamil Kalisa (58′ David Bagoole), Karim Watambala, Milton Karisa (43′ Ibrahim Orit), Cesar Manzoki, Abraham Ndugwa (58′ D. Sserunkuma)
VIPERS’ XI IN SECOND LEG
Fabien Mutombora, Bashir Asiku
Disan Galiwango (73′ Paul Mucureezi), Rashid Toha, Geoffrey Wasswa, Siraje Ssentamu (C), Jamil Kalisa, David Bagoole, Ibrahim Orit, Cesar Manzoki (71′ Najob Yiga), Daniel Sserunkuma (61; Joseph Data)