Birungi impresses as Desabre watches Express overrun KCCA

WANKULUKUKU | Talismanic Congolese striker Eric Kambale walked home with the Pilsner man of the match award but it could have been any of John Revita, Disan Galiwango or Michael Birungi on a day Express FC showed up to humble Mike Mutebi’s well-oiled KCCA machines.

The Fufa Coach of the Year might blame the state of the soggy pitch for his team falling tamely to an Express side they had not lost to at Betway Mutesa II Stadium, Wankulukuku, in seven years, but there is no indication that Birungi and company train in a wetland day in and out either.

The league leaders arrived at Wankulukuku bristling with confidence. They were unbeaten in the league after ten rounds, yet their opponents for the day looked anything but.

Sendo Cleaners

Of the many ‘anythings’ the visiting Kasasiros saw in the Red Eagles were the recent woes of a club that handed their captain indefinite suspension over allegation of match fixing and is investigating others still at large, of a club that was yet to win at home in the league this season, and of a club whose past glory is almost embarrassing to talk about in the face of recent long running struggles.

But Michael Birungu, one of the key players for Kefa Kisala’s side who missed the loss to Kirinya JSS at the weekend, did not appear to care about his former club’s recent good fortunes as the attacking midfielder turned up for the game wearing his heart on his boots.

Cranes tactician Sebastien Desabre was in the pavilion in a fixture that had a couple of Cranes stars, including Patrick Kaddu, Allan Kyambadde, Sadam Juma and Timothy Awany to watch. But it was Birungi who showed up with a different style to his game.

The winger, whose first thought with the ball is often to cross regardless of whether a team mate is in position or not, was more pragmatic, choosing to retain possession and run with the ball at his feet.

It was not surprising that he was at the right place on 15 minutes to turn home Badru Nsubuga’s low cross after the ball had beaten KCCA rearguard. Birungi could have as well extended the lead a few minutes later but appeared to lose steam after turning three defenders inside-out, with his tame cross finding no red shirt in front of goal.

While Birungi showed up against his former club, it was a painful return to Wankulukuku for Sadam Juma, who was stretchered off wincing in pain after a knock on the half hour. KCCA returned for the second half with more resolve and purpose having realised that they would need more than just recent fortunes to turn the tables on Express.

Yet fortune it was, on 52 minutes, when goalkeeper Tony Kyamera, in for Ronald Mutebi who had been clattered into submission by Kaddu in the first half, had his first moment of madness in the game, leaving his goal line to collect an innocuous Allan Okello delivery, only to hesitate after Revita had conceded the ball to his call and allow Kyambadde to round him up for an equaliser.

KCCA sensed they had the game then as piled pressure, but they remained vulnerable on their left flank where Birungi and Kambale continued with telepathic combinations that kept pressure on the visitors.

But it wasn’t from the right where the Red Eagles’ next threats came. Tony Odur collected a ball 30 yards out but scuffed the shot and watched the weak effort bounce off. Shortly after, Birungi’s effort to connect with a cross was not enough to make the most of a half volley.

Kisala then decided to end Odur’s day with half an hour to go. On came Mubarak Nsubuga. It was from him that a move that ended with Kambale collecting the ball eight yards out to rifle past a static Charles Lukwago in goal started.

Television replays showed that Kambale was in offside position and had tried to get back onside but wasn’t fast enough to it by the time the final ball was played. But FC faithful wouldn’t care. The 68th minute goal had restored the lead and KCCA were suddenly looking looking beatable.

Priceless yellow card

Four minutes later, Birungi won a corner kick and was due to take it but Disan Galiwango was beckoning for it. The 24-year-old former Khartoum Club winger left the corner flag and walked straight into the ref’s book for time wasting. He won’t care about the yellow card as the decision proved priceless.

Disan curled the corner kick to perfection. By the time Charles Lukwago realised the flight of the ball, he was standing several yards over the goal line, the ball as much over the line. The KCCA stopper then inexplicably tried to hold the ball rather than parry it into play, a mistake he rued as he dropped the ball and allowed the assistant ref to take note of it having crossed the goal line.

Mike Mutebi had 18 minutes to seek two goals and maintain that unbeaten run at Wankulukuku stretching seven years. And Kyamera appeared to have one trick up his gloves himself, rushing out of goal to allow Allan Okello to turn in the ball although the City midfielder had to count double luck for the goal as the assistant referee failed to spot him in offside position.

For a team that had dominated the game, it didn’t prove too difficult a task to hold on for a first home win and end a run of two draws and as much number of defeats in their last four games.

In Jinja last weekend, frustrated and impatient ‘Red Army’ called for Kefa Kisala’s neck on the chopping board but 72 hours later, they had been treated to their new fond ‘Ndiba Yokka’ motto. Back in Lugogo, Mutebi will be taking stock of his battered side with Sadam Juma’s injury and a Caf Confederations Cup engagement in three days.

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