In a season of contrasting fortunes, both defending champions Vipers SC and nearest challengers KCCA FC were slow to get off the blocks in the 2018/2019 StarTimes Uganda Premier League season.
Vipers with their newly furbished multimillion St. Mary’s Stadium were beaming with confidence as they hosted Raymond Komakech’s newly promoted Ndejje Lions side. They had to leave it late against a resilient Ndejje as Davis Kasirye clinched the solitary winner in injury time.
KCCA on their part were hosting Wasswa Bossa’s Tooro United, previously Soana FC after a change of name in the off-season. This is a game that was expected to put up a bogey challenge for the City lads as Tooro backed by Smart Obed’s millions had been heavily involved in the transfer market and had a much changed side.
KCCA run away with this 2-1 victors but that’s not to say they had it easy. Tooro United posed questions of their own that left a lot to be desired of this KCCA outfit. More so when you consider they were up against a buoyant Vipers side with Mexican Martinez at the helm.
In the subsequent six games for each side; KCCA took on Kirinya Jinja SS, Onduparaka, Bright Stars, Mbarara City, SC Villa and Nyamityobora eventually amassing 14 points. Vipers on their part took on Maroons, Nyamityobora, SC Villa, Kirinya Jinja SS, Express and Paidha Black Angels gathering 14 points too. This meant that by match day seven of the 2018-19 UPL season, both these heavyweights were locked at 17 points apiece.
KCCA then locked horns with Maroons at the Prison Grounds and won that courtesy of a Jackson Nunda strike. Vipers didn’t play their encounter against BUL FC as it was postponed due to their engagements on the continent.
At this point, KCCA had pulled 3 points clear of the Venoms drawing some much-needed daylight between them and the defending champions. KCCA and Vipers then both won their next encounters against Ndejje and Police, 3-1 and 1-0 respectively but the margin at the top remained intact.
Vipers’ due to their involvement in the 2018/2019 Total CAF Champions League had their next two games against URA and Mbarara City again postponed. KCCA meanwhile lost to eternal rivals, Express FC 3-2 in a very pulsating game on a rain drenched Wankulukuku but resolved parity by beating bottom side Paidha Black Angels 3-0 at Lugogo. KCCA had stretched the lead over Vipers to 6 points as they had 26 points from 11 matches played.
In the days drawing up to the festive period, KCCA were nothing short of scintillating form as they swept aside BUL 2-1, Police 6-3 and narrowly edged URA 1-0 with skipper Timothy Awany’s strike.
Vipers for all their shortcomings on the continent didn’t have it easier locally in the league too. They faltered more by drawing goalless to both Tooro United in Kitende and Bright Stars in Mwererwe.
The draw against Tooro United was the last outing for Mexican Espinoza as in came Michael Nam Ouma. The Kenyan rejuvenated himself with a 3-0 mauling of Onduparaka, followed that up with back to back one all draw against URA and Mbarara City. Clearly, nothing seemed to be happening for them at that point.
As the second round resumed in late January, Vipers edged past Kirinya as KCCA drew blanks away at Mbarara. This result meant that Vipers covered more ground on KCCA by reducing the point’s deficit to three. Both Vipers and KCCA won their next games against Nyamityobora and Onduparaka respectively.
The turning point in Vipers’ quest to defend their league title came on February 9th. The Venoms hosted Douglas Bamweyana’s struggling SC Villa side. The latter filled with a cast of Vipers’ rejects put up quite the show running away 3-1 victors at the St. Mary’s stadium.
It was the first time Vipers were losing this season and the first at home since November 2017 when they lost 2-1 against URA. KCCA who had drawn goalless with Bright Stars had stretched their lead over the Kitende based side to four points.
The next defining point of the season was on February 26th when KCCA fell 2-1 at home to Sam Ssimbwa’s Tax Collectors. Vipers failed to make ground of this by playing out a dour goalless draw away against Onduparaka.
That still gave KCCA the leeway over Vipers as they held a priceless three-point margin from the 45 they had collected at the time. Mbarara City making up the supporting cast.
KCCA then made easy fodder of SC Villa with a resplendent performance they emphatically defeated the Jogoos 4-2 in their own backyard. Vipers too were at hand to reciprocate that result by comfortably defeating Express 2-0 before both sides further faltered in their next games. KCCA were held to a one all draw away in Buhinga as Vipers had an eyebrow raising 2-1 defeat at Ndejje.
This all made up for a saucy encounter on April 4th as the two runaway leaders were slated to meet at the StarTimes Stadium. A 1-1 draw was the result as none could make more of their chances in amidst some brilliant defensive play from either side.
That seemed to be Vipers undoing as they’ve never really regained their fear factor again. They went on to register a goalless draw away at Mbarara City before ironically losing 2-1 to URA at home; the last team to have achieved such a feat at Kitende.
KCCA for all their good work got two decent wins against Paidha Black Angels (2-0) in Bar ‘Okoro and Express FC (3-1) stretching their lead at the top to six points with a paltry three games left to play. All they needed was draw against Ndejje in Luwero and they got exactly that to seal a 13th championship.