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Express, URA still have huge continental mountains to climb

By Allan Damba
URA players celebrate a goal at Kitende last season / Sanyuka TV Image

Express FC and URA FC picked up identical marginal 2-1 victories over Al-Merrikh and Ethiopian Coffee in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively.

The Friday and Sunday fixtures at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende came after long spells without featuring in the respective competitions; Red Eagles twenty-four while the Tax Collectors had spent a sizeable six years.

The wins clearly justify the excitement among the fans and wellwishers alike, but are they sustainable? The wins were slim and utterly dangerous for the fact that both Ugandan teams played at home.

The Red Eagles will take on the Sudanese powerhouse on Friday, September 17, 2021, in Khartoum for the second leg, a game that promises more than just contemporary drama.

The goals from Eric Kambale and Martin Kizza that decided the home result might just prove ineffectual in the event that the Red Eagles concede and don’t get to score a goal. All the Sudanese require is a goal.

Meanwhile, the Omdurman club holds a bigger and heavier pedigree in the competition having featured for a whopping twenty-eight times previously as compared to the seven that the ‘Mukwano Gwabanji’s boast about.

Despite the fact that both sides have the semifinal as their biggest feat in the competition (Express in 1995), Al-Merrikh’s achievement of this milestone is the most recent (2015). They might just have a slight advantage heading into the return leg.

Martin Kizza (R) shields the ball from his opponent at Kitende on Friday | Courtesy Image

It is also imperative to remember that the Red Castles (Al-Merreikh) last fared at the round of 16 stage (group stages) of the coveted tournament during the 2020/21 season.

On the other hand, URA FC have their own hurdle to jump in case they are to make it past the preliminary stage and over Ethiopian Coffee on Sunday, September 19, albeit, a lighter one.

The home team showcased incredible passing ability and flair while in Wakiso and clearly only need a 1-0 win in the return leg to progress to the next round.

That said, the Tax Collectors have the greater continental experience, having featured seven times previously in both the Champions League and Confederation Cup compared to Coffee’s three.

While it seems more or less a certainty that URA will score a goal in Ethiopia, it is not cast in stone that they will progress to the next round. Especially if the scenes in the second half of the first leg are anything to go with.

Express’ technical bench manned by Wasswa Bbosa, James Odoch and Simon Peter Kirumira should be well aware of these facts and will surely play to get an early goal that could kill the tie.

The same case can be made of the tax-men under the experienced guardianship of Sam Timbe and guile of ex-international Simeone Masaba.

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