Vipers edge BUL to go five points clear at the top

By Joseph Kizza

Tito Okello was in remarkable goalscoring form in Njeru as he scored his first hattrick at Vipers to stretch the Venoms' lead over KCCA to five points.

Vipers 350x210

STARTIMES UGANDA PREMIER LEAGUE

Sunday result

BUL 2-3  Vipers

__________________________


Tito Okello never forgets to carry his scoring boots to Njeru Technical Centre.

The last time Vipers had made a trip there, the rangy forward was one of the scorers in the Venoms' 3-1 win over BUL. That was in December 2018 as the Kitende-based club, then coached by Mexican Javier Martinez Espinoza, extended their impressive unbeaten run to 27 games.

At the time, they were in second place behind eventual winners KCCA in a two-horse race.

Fast-forward to present day and it is similar circumstances in more ways than one. It is still a two-way race for this season's title, only this time, Vipers are at the helm and are being chased down by closest challengers KCCA.

On Sunday, history repeated itself - somehow - as Okello once again scored at Njeru, this time taking it two notches higher by scoring three times to register his first ever hattrick at the club.

In a bright start for the title-chasing visitors, Okello broke BUL's resistance 19 minutes into the opening half with a well-taken penalty after he was bundled in the box by Denis Okot.

Nine minutes later, he collected a long delivery from his keeper, Fabien Mutombora, to calmly lob the ball over Sanon Mulabi for Vipers' second.

But the hosts were not going down without a fight. Fredson Gwoto halved the deficit on the half-hour mark to restore respite for BUL.

In a breathless, high-octane opening half, Robert Mukhongotya brought the home side back on level terms after a blunder at Vipers' back. On the other end, Okello was not done yet, as he restored the Venoms' lead in the 73rd minute with a fine strike.

Before that winning goal by Okello, BUL goal minder Mulabi had had a busy conclusion to the first half as he was often drawn into a series of saves, particularly from Geoffrey Wasswa.

Fred Kajoba made his first reform eight minutes into the second half when he brought on Bashir Asiku in place of Jacob Okao. The second substitution came almost immediately after: Allan Kayiwa was introduced at the expense of Brian Nkuubi.

Dan Sserunkuuma's coming on for Paul Mucureezi halfway into the second half marked Vipers' final substitution as the title chasers searched for a third goal. And they did get it soon after, Okello adding gloss to his evening of brilliance with his third and winning goal for Kajoba's side.

The three minutes of added time did well to create an atmosphere of nerves over Njeru, but the scoreline remained intact.

Victory steered Vipers five points clear of KCCA, with the two sides meeting next in a game that will introduce a new dimension to the title charge.

Vipers are leading the pile on 49 points while defending champions KCCA sit in second on 44 points.

Sunday's defeat leaves BUL in sixth on 30 points.

Meanwhile, the junior sides of BUL and Vipers were also in action on Sunday. Here though, it was BUL that emerged the winning side in the FUFA U-17 Football League.

Alex Opio Otti put Vipers in front in the 18th minute, James Jarieko levelled matters after the break, before Allan Kiggundu scored the winner in the 75th minute.