Uganda: Vipers and Ura Draw As Express Wins to Set Up 3-Horse Race

URA FC were beginning to believe that they were going to be four points clear of their closest rivals, Vipers SC. As the end to their encounter at the St Mary's stadium in Kitende drew nigh on a cloudy Wednesday evening, URA were leading Vipers 1-0 with five minutes to play.

That is when Vipers striker Yunus Sentamu struck a sweet volley with his left foot to restore parity for 1-1. This followed a first half goal by URA striker Cromwell Rwothomio 33 minutes into the game, to leave these two giants separated by just a single point, making the league title run-in dicey.

With 23 games played so far, both teams still have seven left, which means there is still a lot of football to be played. And with just one point separating them, the championship remains in the balance, and surely is there for the taking. George Lutalo, the URA assistant coach said: "The situation is that we just have to win our games and not have to care about what others do."

On the other hand, his opposite Fred Kajoba said that this league was never going to be easy. But they just have to remain focused if they are to defend their title. Worse still, the matter is no longer a small one involving just Vipers and URA. Express is right in the mix too, with just two points behind the table leaders.

This follows a hatrick by Express forward Erick Kambale against Kyetume, which inspired a 3-2 win. And on 49 points, Express should be feeling upbeat about the turn of fortunes. The current standing makes for a grand finish between URA, Vipers and Express, who appear to be storming back, after dropping points against SC Villa and Bright Stars recently.

However, the build-up to the Vipers and URA game had a tense feeling about it. Being that it pitted the top two sides on the league table, URA on 50 points and Vipers on 49 points, so much was at stake. Yet, seeing how both sides kicked off of, they were both intent on winning the game.

URA were attacking and so was Vipers, although there were very few openings on either side. Solid defending defined the encounter. The URA centre-back duo of Benjamin Nyakoojo and Hudu Mulikyi were doing their utmost to outdo Vipers' Livingstone Mulondo and Halid Lwaliwa by clearing all and sundry, not allowing each other's goalkeeper to be exposed at any one bit.

Yet, with all the tenacity in defending that was being showcased, the main highlight for much of the game was in midfield. A one diminutive midfielder Moses Sseruyidde of URA was playing like he was conducting an orchestra. It appeared like he had glue on his boot, running rings around the Vipers midfielders, as he sprayed passes across the field. Sseruyidde showed what a good player he can be if he is continuously given his free role.

Sseruyidde's intricate passing played a huge part in URA's goal. Sseruyidde's combination with Shafik Kagimu, before the latter back-heeled the pass into the path of an on running Rwothomio, who made no mistake, but beat Vipers goalkeeper Fabien Mutombora at the near post.

Although Vipers tried to respond immediately, the URA goalkeeper Hannington Sebwalunyo was equal to the task, pulling off some good saves of Karim Watambala and Sentamu in the first half. Things changed in the second half, when Kajoba made a quick double change, bringing on Ibrahim Orit and Ceaser Manzoki for Milton Karisa and Richard Basangwa respectively.

Vipers then stepped on the gas, although URA's defence remained resolute. But also URA's midfield of Ivan Sserubiri, Patrick Mbowa and Sseruyidde were doing well thwarting Vipers attacks. At the same time, Sseruyidde was doing his utmost to keep Vipers on the back foot, as he incessantly carried the ball to them, and made all those mesmerizing turns to try and unlock their defence.

In fact, it took Sseruyidde limping off after 63 minutes for Vipers to enjoy some spell of midfield control. "Without Sseruyidde, we lost a bit of the control we had in the midfield. Hopefully, it is not a serious injury, and we can have him back soon," Lutalo said.

Yet, Kajoba has to be credited for his tactical moves, that rescued the point for his charges. By bringing on the tall Manzoki, a number of high balls and crosses were being delivered into URA's penalty area. And it was from one of them, that Vipers found a way to score.

A long and high ball by midfielder Bobosi Byaruhanga was flicked on by Manzoki, falling nicely into the path of Sentamu, who simply did what comes as second nature to him- bury it into the back of the net, to save Vipers' blushes and their title hopes at the same time.

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