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Victors draw at home with DR Congo's Pembe

[Posted 21 Mar 2011]
[By Charles Malingha]
Victors draw at home with DR Congo

 Victors’ first round Confederations Cup game against Motema Pembe, ended in a One-all draw at home and Victors coach George ’Best’ Nsimbe was wary of conceding at home.

"Pembe will be playing for an away goal, it’s a target for any visiting side in continental football and we have to be prepared for that," Nsimbe said after rain interrupted their last training at Kyambogo ahead of the encounter against the DR Congo side. 

 It had rained for much of last week and actually proved more of the immediate concern on match day.

Even the away goal seemed secondary for a moment. Over 10, 000 fans who had parted with Shs5, 000 for the stands and Shs10, 000 for the pavilion were uncertain with little coming through from the officials.

Striker Yuda Mugalu was the first Victors player out on the pitch, his hands open to the heavens as he said his prayers, before both sets of players stormed out of their dressing rooms for warm up.

But after about 10 minutes of a drizzle that steadily intensified, they were forced back into the change rooms. The downpour lasted for close to two hours leaving the already terrible Nakivubo turf even more appalling.

The mood of the fans went pessimistic, the weather unapologetically gloomy, and the match officials hopeless. The four officials inspected the pitch and the commissioner, Zeli Mahlangu, from South Africa sanctioned about 45 minutes to allow drainage before any other decision was taken.

 As it stood, the pitch was unplayable.

Fifa rules dictate that if the ball can’t move or bounce, the match cannot kick-off. By now, water was being manually fetched from the pitch using buckets and jerrycans.

As it turned out, the stadium drainage system doesn’t function, raising more questions about its management.

"Caf had refused to sanction the stadium for the match," said Nakivubo board member Moses Magogo.

 "The pitch needs a breather from both sporting and non-sporting activities," he added.

Centre referee Issa Kagabo and his two assistants with the fourth official inspected the pitch for the third time, dropped balls, kicked them – they did move but barely bounced. When one of the assistants looked at the few blinking flood lights, he dropped an amusing laughter.

Two hours gone from the official starting time of 4pm, the decision had been taken and the match was pushed to Saturday, 2pm. It poured again on Saturday morning but the match had to go on at 2pm, under sunny conditions.

The damage had been done as large patches of the pitch were still muddy, with Victors’ supposedly white kit earning afternoon dye. Both teams were visibly affected by the bumpy and muddy surface but provided a thrilling display, nonetheless.

And one of Nsimbe and Victors’ targets were met as early as the 19th minute when talismanic striker Mugalu, who missed the preliminary Kampala leg against Swaziland’s Mbabane Highlanders, capitalized on Pembe’s sloppy defending to put the hosts ahead.

But Mugalu, Hassan Mubiru and Daniel Sserunkuma would soon rue the first half missed opportunities to kill off the Congolese, watched by over 10, 000 fans who came back.

"We should have scored more," said Mugalu "But we can still score away, we did against Mbabane, we shall fight until the final whistle in Congo." Pembe upped their game after recess, pegging Victors on the back-foot with the hosts making occasional counters.

Substitute Kasumbe Mankubina added extra gloss for the crowd every time Pembe had a throw-in, somersaulting, with the ball on the ground providing support, before landing on his feet to launch his throw. Victors keeper Ali Kimera had kept Nsimbe’s side in the game for the most part, making superb save after another.

Until the 81st minute when he spilled a tame shot by Bokota Labama for rampaging Ilongo Ngasanya to score the vital away goal, Nsimbe’s earlier worst fear. Kimera said: "I saw the ball coming but mud fell in my eyes and I couldn’t hold it firmly." Victors captain Isaac Katwere was quick to defend his goalkeeper. "We can’t blame Kimera, before that he kept us in the game, it would have been different," he said.

Pembe jubilated, Victors players’ shoulders shrunk, home fans groaned, and Nsimbe urged his charges on. But Pembe coach Moto Adede’s side held on to darken Victors’ chances of progressing.

"That was a cheap goal to give away after a spirited team display but that’s football," said Nsimbe (pictured left). Nsimbe’s opposite Adede remains firm the Congolese will progress. "Definitely we shall score more goals in Kinshasa," he said.

Only SC Villa have progressed after drawing the first leg in Kampala in 2001, when they drew 2-2 with Burundi’s Vital’O before winning 2-1 away in the Caf Champions League first round. They were later eliminated by Nigeria’s Julius Berger.

Victors now have to score early in Congo to stand a chance of progressing to the second round.


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