KCCA FC or their supporters, at least need no invitation to raise a smirk at Vipers SC’s misfortune. In what has developed into a rivalry similar to that of URA a decade previous, the head-to-head battles the Yellows and Vipers have embarked upon have seen the pair become true adversaries.
Title races, and previous Cup final battles, will see to that. No surprise, then, Vipers’ frustrating barren draw with Mbarara City in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League would have caught the attention at Lugogo. Not least because it opens up the possibility of drawing more daylight from Michael Nam Ouma’s side.
There is another layer to this however, as what had seemed a relentless Vipers’ side, particular in the first round of the season, stuttered in a big moment of their season. Their form on paper, certainly before the turn of the year, looked fearsome; before that trip to Ndejje, Vipers won 12 of their last 15 matches in the first round.
Yet defeat to Raymond Komakech’s side saw a question over Vipers grow louder as the latter stages of the league campaign draw near. Are they just beginning to slow down and show a lethargy that may be exploited in the coming weeks?
Vipers have been ruling in most of their league matches this season; their ability to strike first has been key to their overall success. They have scored the opening goal in 71% of their league matches throughout this campaign and, as a result, they have been leading at half time in 59% of those.
After taking the lead, Ouma’s side will often go on to blow the opposition away – notably 15% of their league wins this season have been by a margin of three or more goals. Yet those domineering score lines in recent months have noticeably subsided, in a run of twelve league matches – which saw them play the likes of Kirinya Jinja SS, Nyamityobora, Bright Stars, Express and Maroons.
They managed just one win by a margin of more than two goals, that came against Bright Stars back in February, with Vipers hammering three goals past the Kavumba side. In their previous two matches before Mbarara, Vipers had scored a goal in each of the opening 30 minutes.
With such an early lead, there would be an expectancy for them to go on and build a dominant score line, as was often the case earlier in the season. This would therefore demonstrate that in recent weeks, there seems to be a tendency to take the lead in the opening stages of the matches. But then look to control and manage the game, rather than build and cement their foothold on the match.
As one of the best sides in the division, this tactic should prove successful in almost all of their matches, however as Vipers should have learnt by now, there is no guarantee at this level against opposition. Vipers have already lost on two occasions in the league this season – same number as KCCA but have drawn a mammoth number of games, 11, compared to the latter’s eight.
Notably, those defeats came against perceived ‘lesser’ sides in the form of SC Villa who are battling relegation and newly promoted Ndejje Lions who are also in the red zone of the log. A familiar trend in those two matches was the fact that Vipers bossed both games but failed to assert their possession and authority into meaningful numbers.
Basic defensive errors in each allowed all two sides to grab what one would regard as cheap goals. Without that cushion of a lead, each opponent was handed the initiative to push on and try to secure victory.
KCCA fans can take further optimism from that. Now, due to their commanding nature, the minor sides they have faced have often preferred to relinquish possession and instead look to take an ultra-defensive approach against Ouma’s side.
Abandoning pursuit of a result and instead opting for a damage limitation exercise. While there is no doubt Vipers are a brilliant side and deserving of a spot inside the League’s top two with KCCA. The fact that they have drawn three more league games than the Kasasiro Boys this season does demonstrate vulnerability.
With stern tests on the horizon against teams who won’t let Vipers have things all their own way, KCCA should be optimistic that their fate could once again be in their own hands in the coming weeks.