Will the many opportunities the Venoms missed in front of goal against Tunisian side CS Sfaxien come back to sting them?
CAF CONFEDERATION CUP PLAYOFF ROUND
Saturday first leg result at St. Mary's Stadium
|Vipers SC||0-0||CS Sfaxien|
By Joseph Kizza
KITENDE - Vipers SC set themselves up for a difficult return leg ahead after being held to a goalless draw at home by a resilient CS Sfaxien on Saturday.
The Venoms will definitely rue the host of chances they squandered in front of goal in either half of an exhausting first leg of the 2018-19 CAF Confederation Cup playoff round.
They huffed and puffed, but failed to hurt the visiting Tunisians and let them take away a clean bill of health.
The return leg will be next Sunday (January 20) in Sfax. Question is: Will Michael Ouma's troops utilise their only chance at redemption to make it to the group stage for the first time ever?
The reigning Ugandan league champions have seven days to prepare for a tricky trip to the southeast of Tunisia. It will be a do-or-die assignment against a giant of the continent. Sfaxien are eight-time Tunisian league champions and they have won the Confederation Cup three times and the CAF Champions League once.
Another disappointing home show
In the build up to Saturday's clash at St. Mary's Stadium in Kitende, Kenyan tactician Ouma, who is in charge of Vipers in the interim after Mexican Javier Martinez Espinoza's departure at the end of last year, promised that his side would give a good account of themselves in front of the home faithful.
In truth, they did, creating chance after chance in the opening periods of the game played under intense early evening heat. But what they lacked was the much-needed precision in front of the Sfaxien goal as opportunities passed them by.
The home side's dominance only started to fizzle to the fore after they came close to trailing in the fourth minute, when goalkeeper Fabien Mutombola and his defender Bashir Asiku were hit by a communication bug in the danger zone.
An early home scare, but swiftly dealt with.
From Noah Wafula failing to connect to Geofrey Waiswa missing a glorious chance, Vipers were undoubtedly guilty of profligacy in the early stages of the first half. Tadeo Lwanga, returning to the team after missing the 2-0 defeat to CS Constantine in the Champions League first round, was also wasteful.
Brilliant goalkeeping - or poor finishers?
The Venoms spat all sorts of threats at the Juventus of the Arabs, but the visitors remained solid. Yet the tie was not limited to one-way traffic. Sfaxien, who are currently third back in their home league, had their moments too, with Hamza Jlassi on constant patrol.
Burundian Mutombola had to be drawn into fine saves whenever Ruud Josef Krol's men did the attacking.
Towards the end of the first half, Vipers threw everything at Sfaxien. The closest they came to finding the back of the net was when Tito Okello struck the upright albeit he was already flagged offside.
Wafula, an import from Kenyan side Kakamega Homeboyz, will rue the times he should have tucked home from easy positions. Once, he was brought down and failed to connect from the resulting Vipers freekick swept in by Waiswa.
Meanwhile, Dan Sserunkuuma was not allowed to wander about. But when he did manage to slither past his lankier minders, like in the 55th minute, the dreadlocked forward would cause jitters at the opposition's back. His rasping strike 10 minutes after the restart was so good that goalkeeper Ayman Dahmen deserves plaudits for managing to claw it out.
The visitors' goalstopper was soon back into action when he had to parry Waiswa's curled effort out of play after an industrious run by Ibrahim Kiyemba.
Dahmen also had to keep out Okello's fierce header 14 minutes before time as the hosts were quickly running out of crucial time to find a breakthrough.
Sfaxien held on to the very end - even with five minutes of added time - to take a huge advantage back home. For Vipers, the result will have been seen as a huge blow to their chances of progressing to the the group stage of the competition.
Following their 3-0 win over Onduparaka FC in the league that seemed to have resuscitated their winning dimension, all signs were that the three-time league champions, the only side still unbeaten this season in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League, had rediscovered their mojo.
But on the evidence of Saturday's encounter with Sfaxien, it is clear Ouma and co still have a lot of work to do.
Meanwhile, Uganda's only other representative in the Confederation Cup, KCCA FC, will be in action on Sunday when they face Congo side AS Otoho in Oyo.
Mike Mutebi and his team landed safe and sound in the central African nation ahead of the first leg tie.
The winner of each of the two-legged playoff round duels advances to the group stage.