Down but not out. Vipers SC have a chance to sharpen their fangs and compete in more continental football this season.
2018-19 CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
First round: Saturday's second leg result
Vipers 0 CS Constantine 2
(SC Constantine advance 3-0 on aggregate)
By Joseph Kizza
KITENDE - Within a space of five minutes, it was all over.
Technically, Vipers SC were out of the CAF Champions League with 21 minutes still to play.
"Bad day at office," the club later tweeted Sunday morning.
Several hours before, on Saturday, CS Constantine's Adil Djabout had struck in the 64th minute in the return leg to improve the visitors' aggregate advantage to 2-0.
Five minutes later, Mohammed Walid then sucked the venom out of Vipers with a second of the day to all but end the tie as a contest. The Algerians were three goals up on aggregate.
Reducing such huge arrears in under 20 minutes against an equally good - or even better - side was a tad too much to ask of the Ugandan side.
"We can’t let our heads drop. We have to pick up ourselves and get back up," tweeted the club after their exit from the continent's most lucrative club football championship.
Indeed, Vipers have to gather themselves, sharpen their fangs and slither forward because they are not out of it downright.
The Champions League exit door spewed the three-time Uganda Premier League champions right into the CAF Confederation Cup mix - with a place in the group stages to play for.
Of course Javier Martinez Espinoza's side were playing to dine with the big boys in the next phase, but their relegation to the lower tier competition means they still have a chance to impose themselves on the continental stage.
They join another Ugandan club in the Confederation Cup cocktail: KCCA FC.
While Vipers struggled to sink their fangs into Algerian club Constanine's most vulnerable areas, the Kasasiro Boys, on the other hand, were busy hitting the right notes and dumping Mtibwa Sugar SC of Tanzania out of the competition.
'We answered Mtibwa's questions'
On Saturday, coach Mike Mutebi and co were busy putting the final touches to a comprehensive two-legged triumph, with Allan Okello placing the cherry on the gateau in KCCA's first continental away win.
Uganda's 12-time league champions took a 3-0 advantage to their neighbouring rivals and made life even harder for Zubeir Katwila's men when they took the lead before the break through Muzamiru Mutyaba.
While the hosts laboured to make up ground with an equaliser by Salum Kihimbwa after the interval, their more illustrious opponents did not flinch.
The visitors carried enough threat to even find the second and winning goal two minutes before time courtesy of Okello, who scored in similar fashion in the first leg in Kampala a couple of days back.
Eventually, KCCA had managed to dilute Mtibwa Sugar's sticky artillery to advance further in the competition.
"I think we were asked some questions by Mtibwa, which we answered well," said Mutebi after the game.
"And bottom line, we won away from home, which is our first win away from home ever since we got engaged on the continent. So it was a good plus and it gives us more confidence going forward."
Coming up: Winners vs losers
After Saturday's defeat, Vipers have slipped into the Confederations Cup
The respective first rounds of both the Champions League and the Confederation Cup sieve out the teams to move on from those that drop out.
The 15 winners of the Champions League progress to the group stage - to join the title holders, who are Espérance de Tunis of Tunisia.
Meanwhile, the 15 losers here are relegated to the Confederation Cup play-off stage. Vipers are among this lot.
This group will face off against the 15 winners of the Confederation Cup first round, in which KCCA, after thrashing Mtibwa, feature.
Then, the victors in each play-off duel move on to the group stage.
Oh by the way, Étoile du Sahel of Tunisia are already into the group stage.
Here's a simple explanation for that.
As there are 16 winners of the Confederation Cup first round, but only 15 losers of the Champions League first round for this season, the winners of the first round with the best CAF 5-Year Ranking advanced directly to the group stage. That team is Étoile du Sahel.
So with that said, who will KCCA and Vipers meet in the play-offs?
We - and they - don't know yet. The draw will be held Friday next week (December 28).
Mark the date.
We can’t let our heads drop. We have to pick up ourselves and get back up.— Vipers Sports Club (@VipersSC) December 22, 2018
To everyone that turned up to show us support, thank you so much. We appreciated the love shown but sorry we didn’t get the result we wanted.#VIPCSC #VenomsLive #TotalCAFCLhttps://t.co/znbRz6KruO
In the meantime, Vipers will have to switch their focus to domestic action.
A busy next six days lie ahead. On Wednesday, the Kitende-based side will host Rushkere Growers in the Uganda Cup.
Then on Saturday, they will return to league action with a tie against Soana FC. Vipers are currently second on the log, trailing leaders KCCA by three points, but with two games in hand.
Meanwhile, KCCA will have returned home to host Amuka Bright Stars FC on Wednesday in the Uganda Cup.
Action from St. Mary's Stadium, Kitende
(Photos by Mpalanyi Ssentongo)
This is how Vipers SC lined up for the return leg on Saturday
In their way stood CS Constantine of Algeria, who sported an all-green outfit
Egyptian referee Amin Mohamed Omar was the man in charge of this one
And before kickoff, he was keen to brief the two captains - Geoffrey Wassa (Vipers) and Sid Ali Lamri (Constantine)
On a warm early evening in Kitende, the hosts were looking to stage a comeback after suffering a 1-0 defeat in the first leg
But it proved a huge task for Vipers, with skipper Wasswa failing to inspire his side
CS Constantine proved too good for their rivals and scored twice on the day without reply to eventually progress to the group stages. Defeat relegated Vipers to the Confederation Cup play-off round