Tricky Run-in

Vipers, SC Villa and KCCA FC are locked in a three-team battle to win the Uganda Premier League. JOHN VIANNEY NSIMBE assesses their chances as the season enters the final bend.

KCCA’s win over Police yesterday pulled them within two points behind leaders Vipers and a point ahead of SC Villa. The result comes hot on the heels of their 3-0 win over Rwenshama on Saturday, a clear indication that the defending champions will not give up their title without a fight.

Generally, this ensures a tight run-in for the 201415 league honours. The last time there was a close three-team run-in, was back in the 20112012 season. Back then, Express (51), URA (51) and Vipers on 50 went into their final day in an enviable position. They could all win the league. Express’ 2-1 win over Bidco and Bunamwaya’s 1-0 win over URA then ensured that the table standings read: Express 54, Bunamwaya 53 and URA 51.

Before then, the 20072008 season had KCCA, Villa and Police go into their final seven games in close touch. In fact, KCCA were third at the time and with five to go, they were top on 64 while Police and Villa were on 61 points.

However, there has been a growing wave of belief that this is Villa’s year having last won the league in 2004. Seeing the number of experienced players they bought and the euphoria surrounding their fans, who have been jubilant in watching their games in numbers.

Yet, since the recent sacking of coach Sam Ssimbwa by Villa, the Jogoos have not been able to register a win in their three league games against Bidco FC, KCCA and URA. This concern has, however, been watered down on grounds that Ibrahim Kirya, Villa’s present coach, has been facing fellow giants in KCCA and URA. And any result, therefore, would be seen as a bonus.

And because of that, Kefa Kisala, Cranes assistant coach, told The Observer, “After games against the other title rivals, on paper, they seem to have the easier run-in as compared to Vipers, who have to play Villa, KCCA and URA.”

Kisala added that Vipers has a largely youthful side compared to Villa’s experience, whom he believes will be able to overcome the pressure. In addition, Fred Kajoba, Cranes goalkeeping coach and head-coach Bright Stars FC, says “the points Vipers dropped recently against his side, Rwenshama and Soana (the latter two are in a relegation battle), is seen as a case of having shot themselves in the foot.”

Kajoba added that if they had picked at least seven points from those three games, Vipers would be pretty comfortable. Beyond that, Kajoba disagreed with Kisala’s view that Villa has weaker opposition to play, which should make them favourites to win a seventeenth championship.

Kajoba said that there are no small teams in this league. He went further to say that if it had been the case, Villa wouldn’t have laboured to beat Rwenshama and Sadolin, two promoted sides.

That said, on the balance of play, KCCA and Vipers have both collected 14 points in the second half of the season as opposed to Villa’s 13, which points to better form. However, Villa has proved to be better defensively, conceding 11 so far while Vipers and KCCA have conceded 14 and 13 respectively. But in an attacking sense, Villa’s second round form has seen them score 11 goals although clearly, two are from the boardroom.

Another four goals were got from the boardroom in the first round, which gives them their current standing of 36 goals. For KCCA, their 37 goals have been physically scored, yet Vipers also got three boardroom goals off Bidco FC, leaving them with 28 physically-scored goals.

That speaks volumes of Vipers’ shortcomings in attack, seen in their lack of a proven centre-forward and, instead, relying on midfielders Farouk Miya and Mike Mutyaba. Striker Julius Malingumu, whom Vipers acquired from Rwenshama at the end of the first round with five goals, is yet to get off the mark in Buikwe.

Equally, since striker Karim Ndugwa (eight goals) left Villa at the end of the first round, they have also struggled to find an able replacement. But with Ronald Muganga, Chrysostom Ntambi, Steven Bengo and Erisa Sekisambu, Villa can hold their own although each of them has scored only once in the second round.

It is KCCA, however, which not only appears to have the momentum, but its lineup of strikers, Derrick Nsibambi, Herman Wasswa and William Wadri place them in good stead to vie for a third title in a row.

Source : The Observer

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