City Lions have made it a habit to outrightly call the bluff in the title ambitions of Kampala Hockey Club (KHC) Stallions.
In 2018, with the Stallions pushing Weatherhead and eventual champions Wananchi out of comfort, the Lions held them to a 2-2 draw in the second round of the National League (NHL). In the previous season (2019), they managed a 2-1 win in the first round and a draw in the second.
This new season, not even Lions’ captain Muhammad Ali’s public declaration on Uganda Hockey Association (UHA)’s social media handles before the game, was enough to warn the Stallions of impending danger. They again lost 2-1 to put themselves in a precarious situation.
“We respect them but we have beaten them before and we intend to start the season with the same winning spirit,” Ali warned ahead of the game that was played in the biting cold that followed a downpour at Lugogo on Saturday.
Despite controlling the first half and going ahead through captain Richard Ssemwogerere in the 17th minute, the Stallions were devoid of the ruthlessness that defines title hunting sides.
At the stroke of halftime, Lions won a penalty corner as KHC defenders James Mugisha and Isaac Kyeyune ran into each other as they attempted to stop an attack in their D. Maxwell Mugisha tamely switched Ali’s injection right to Andrew Lubega, who was left to hit towards goal unchallenged for the equaliser.
“We didn’t take our early chances and then our pressure at the top dropped, probably because of fatigue,” KHC’s utility player Jordan Mpiima said.
With four minutes to play, KHC defenders Samuel Mwesigwa, inexplicably switched the ball back to his last man Joseph Bbosa.
Rude welcome for Mubs
Bbosa’s attempt to switch the ball left was quickly intercepted, allowing Ali to run undeterred toward the KHC goal. A little body shimming at the top D opened up space for Ali to score the winner past the hapless John Etudat in the KHC goal.
“We’re glad we won. It was not an easy game; we let them dominate for long and we struggled to make key passes but we will get better,” Ali said.
The biggest scalp of the day might have gone to Simba but the bragging rights fell to Makerere University, who rudely welcomed Makerere University Business School to NHL with a 5-1 hiding.
Champions Wananchi and Weatherhead whitewashed Vikings and Historicals with identical 12-0 wins, while Rhinos held Deliverance Church to a 2-2 draw in the only women’s game played.
National Hockey League
Saturday results men
Makerere 5 -1 Mubs
Wananchi 12-0 Weatherhead
City Lions 2 - 1 KHC Stallions
Historicals 0-12 Weatherhead
Deliverance 2-2 Rhinos