For 80 minutes, KCCA were being rushed out of this edition’s Caf Champions League in the preliminary round; and for the aforementioned time they could have actually been behind on numerous occasions at StarTimes Stadium, Lugogo on Friday.
Well, until two timely interventions by the left feet of Mustafa Kizza and Allan Okello.
One saw Kizza drill in an 81st minute low free kick at a point murmurs were that he had taken and missed enough and should step away, and another - a killer ball control and turn that ended with Okello summarily ending the contest with a rasping drive home late on. In the end, the 2-0 victory was enough for Mike Mutebi’s largely youthful team, who started with seven kids groomed from Lugogo, to advance to the second round 4-3 on aggregate.
Southern Africa opponent next
KCCA will now face the winner between Angola’s Atlético Petróleos de Luanda and Matlama of Lesotho in the second round.
An air of uncertainty had engulfed the nearly packed arena, with the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, the home side’s VIP loyalists and the crowd looking on in hope.
Not once, not twice KCCA had to call on either the upright or goalkeeper Charles Lukwago to their rescue.
Ambrose Amseb and Deon Tjizumaue gave KCCA midfield headache all evening, and it had to take a timely clearance by Peter Magambo in the first half and a Lukwago on-on-one save in the second for KCCA to stay alive in the match.
“Maybe if they had taken their chances,” said Mutebi, “It’s because they were using the ball better than us. Very good team but they were not efficient.” The visitors, who were also lucky that Sadat Anaku was not wearing his scoring boots on the day – the teenage wasting a one-on-one chance – were later to pay for their inefficiencies.
Mike Mutyaba was ‘felled’ on the edge of the 18-yard box and Kizza, who had been largely unsuccessful with the free kicks, drilled it home to send the crowd into pandemonium.
African Stars dropped to their knees, a sinking feeling and imagination of what could have been frighteningly evident.
Nine minutes after they had picked themselves up, Okello coolly controlled a pass from Mike Mutyaba after a move that was started by Jackson Nunda and - in lightning speed - turned and unleashed a thunderous effort past Ratanda Mbazuvara for 2-0.
“There was belief that if you are good enough you can do it,” said Mutebi, “These kids carried on and believed. They also defended very smartly.”
Stars coach Mohammed Gargo, in the job barely two months, was impressed with his boys despite defeat but believes “if KCCA improve a little more in possession they are good for money brackets.”
The final whistle drew scenes of jubilation; with fans keeping Okello – who could have easily got his second but for the goalkeeper’s intervention -, on the perimeter fence as they filled the youngster’s hands with bank notes.