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Arua Hills 1-0 Vipers SC: Key talking points as Kongolos hand Robertinho first loss on the road

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In what can be described as another questionable display from Vipers SC on Tuesday evening, the four-time Uganda Premier League champions failed to make up any ground in the title race as they slumped to a 1-0 loss away at Arua Hills.

Suffering a deserved defeat at Barifa Stadium, Alfred Leku’s early strike with just ten minutes on the clock was enough to hand Robertinho his first defeat on the road since taking charge of the Venoms at the start of the season.

The Venoms squandered an opportunity of maintaining a top league spot ahead of KCCA FC who won their game by a slim 1-goal margin against Mbarara City at the Omondi Stadium on Wednesday evening.

We have taken a look at the main talking points as Vipers opened the New Year with what was a nightmare display away from home.

Arua Hills deserve all the plaudits

Last seen before Tuesday’s meeting at Barifa Stadium back on December 28th when they were walloped 4-0 by BUL FC at Bugembe Stadium, the Kongolos showed signs of ring rust when returning to action here. However, Livingstone Mbabazi’s men have won three of their previous six home games before getting underway against Vipers, the Kongolos came flying out of the traps.

Not concerned by their opponents dominating proceedings through the opening minutes, the former Mbarara City boss saw Alred Leku opening the scores with a wonderful header from Gadafi Wahab’s corner delivery.

Recording their first victory against Vipers SC in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League, some players in the Arua Hills’ camp can now have their sights set on making a charge at a top-four finish.

Old Boys continue to haunt the Venoms

While Vipers chances of the title fight have been dented by former players in Henry Kitegenyi and Bashir Mutanda to mention but a few, it looks like having so many former players is a big problem altogether.

Vipers first loss on the road was exacted by former players in Alfred Leku who struck for the home side and Rashid Toha who man-marked one of the most dangerous players on the Vipers front-line.

Seems like it will be difficult for them to avoid such encounters and sometimes the results as well.

Stop Manzoki, stop Vipers

From the start of the game, Rashid Toha had made it clear that he would man-mark Vipers Congolese forward Cesaer Lobi Manzoki. The former Vipers defender (Toha) made sure that Manzoki enjoyed no light moments, marking him closely and making sure he does not enjoy any minutes comfortably on the ball. While the combination of Manzoki and Ssentamu alongside Milton Karisa has seemed unstoppable this season, it appears like if you can stop Manzoki, the rest of the chain is broken and that’s what happened when Toha marked him (Manzoki) out of the game.

You would expect that while Toha concentrates on Manzoki, the Arua Hills’ defensive shape would somehow be distorted and Vipers could take advantage. However, this was so hard for the rest of the Vipers team to see as they failed to capitalise on any moments when chances actually presented themselves. Perhaps Vuni and his group were doing a lot of cover to allow any mistakes through.

Robertinho’s unbeaten run on the road comes to an end

Managing to sign off 2021 with a much-welcomed 7-2 win against descending UPDF side, Robertinho had made it clear before Tuesday’s meeting that he was calling on his side to keep the winning mentality. However, the Venoms have managed to get Robertinho’s tenure off a winning start with an impressive away record having managed five wins and a draw from the last six outings before Tuesday’s encounter.

Coming under real scrutiny for their narrow 1-0 victory away at relegation scrappers Soltilo Bright Stars last month, many fans around Kitende have been expecting it, and it was only a matter of time before the 61-year old’s away unbeaten start came to an end.

Heavily outplayed their opponent on Tuesday evening and managed to record just a pair of shots on target, the frustration was there to be heard after the final whistle.

Is Robertinho the man to take the Venoms forward?

Although Tuesday’s defeat might have been Vipers first away loss and second this season, the Venoms had last lost a game on the road against URA FC on 13th March 2021. It is clear to see that the Vipers have improved their game since Robertinho’s arrival

With barely four months at the Kitende based side having arrived late in August 2021, Robertinho has managed to forge a starting XI out of the pool of gifted players at St. Mary’s which has been one of the major problems faced by his predecessors.

With his style of attacking football Robertinho’s side have managed to score more goals (30) than any other team in the league.

In his first 13 games in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League, Robertinho has won nine games, drawn two, and lost two which is quite an impressive start for a foreign coach.

Ronald Yiga
Senior Staff Writer at Touchline Sports covering largely football

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