Express Football Club players celebrate Erick Kambale's goal at St Mary's Stadium, Kitende (Credit: John Batanudde)

CAF Champions League (Preliminary Round, 1st Leg)

Express (Uganda) 2-1 Al Merrikh (Sudan)

For the first time in 24 years, Express Football Club returned to continental football.

It was good news for Uganda’s ambassadors in the CAF Champions League who beat Sudan’s Al Merrikh 2-1 during the preliminary round opening leg played at a neutral St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende on Friday, September 10, 2021.

A goal in each half from Erick Kambale and Martin Kizza inspired the Red Eagles to a much-deserved home win.

Martin Kizza dribbles against Amir Kamal at St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende (Credit: John Batanudde)

Kambale scored in the 6th minute before Kizza’s strike on the hour mark.

The lanky forward beat goalkeeper Salman Monged Elneel Abuzaid from close range after Martin Kizza had headed the ball in his path.

Kizza’s assist followed a long ball played from the backline.

Elgadir headed into the up-right of the Express goal net off a corner kick by Tony Omayarue.

Moments before Al Merrikh’s equalizer, Express had missed the opportunity to double their lead when Muzamiru Mutyaba set up Yaya Kakooza but the latter’s shot razed off the crossbar in the 31st minute.

Bakri Abd Elgadir’s goal in the 38th minute brought life to the game for Al Merrikh but it was merely turned into a consolation that will count for something ahead of the return leg a week’s time.

By the halfway break, both sides were tied 1-goal apiece.

Upon restart of play in the closing half, Kizza had a free-kick from an acute angle well collected by the goalkeeper Salman Abuzaid.

Express called for the opening change of the game when forward George Senkaaba replaced midfielder Mutyaba in the 55th minute.

Five minutes later, Kizza calmly finished into the net after Godfrey Lwesibawa’s assist as the hosts regained their lead.

Mohamed Alrashed Mahamoud and Ahmed Hamed Mahmoud were introduced for Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Idris and Salaheid respectively in the 65th minute.

Three minutes later, Lwesibawa (Express) and Ahmed Ahmed (Al Merrikh) got booked for retaliation by the Djibouti referee.

There were two other cautions to Al Merrikh players Ahmed Hamed Mahmoud and Elsmaman in quick succession.

With 18 minutes to play, Express called for another double change. Daniel Shabene paved way for John Byamukama and Joseph Akandwanaho replaced Lwesibawa

A false turn by George Senkaaba was well defended by Mahmoud Nemer as Express pushed for a killer.

Substitute Joseph Akandwanaho headed out Kizza’s cross from the right in the 78th minute.

Kizza curled out a free-kick won by Akandwanaho.

With 8 minutes to play, Al Merrikh introduced Tajeldin Elnour Badawi for Ahmed Ahmed and Abd Elrahman Eishang Hassan came on for forward Tony Omayarue Edjomariegwe.

Express held onto the lead to grab maximum points prior to next week’s return leg in Khartoum city.

Express XI Vs Al Merrikh (Credit: John Batanudde) Credit: John Batanudde

Team Line Ups:

Express XI: Joel Mutakubwa (G.K), Enock Walusimbi (Captain), Arthur Kiggundu, Isa Lumu, Murushid Juuko, Daniel Shabena, Yaya Kakooza, Godfrey Lwesibawa, Muzamiru Mutyaba, Martin Kizza, Erick Kambale

Subs: Denis Otim (G.K), Denis Mubuya, Joseph Akandwanaho, Charles Musiige, John Byamukama, Abel Eturude, George Senkaaba, John Byamukama

Al Merrikh XI Vs Express (Credit: John Batanudde)

Al Merrikh XI: Salman Monged Elneel Abuzaid (G.K), Ahmed Ahmed, Suliman Amir Kamal, Ahmed Mohamed, Mahmoud Nemer Salaheldin, Musa Mahjoub Dhiya, Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Idris, Elsamani Saadelin, Hussein Nooh Al-Gozoli, Bakri Abd Elgadir, Tony Edjomariegwe Omayarue

Subs: Mohamed Mustafa Mohamed (G.K), Mohamed Alrashed Mahamoud, Wagdi Awad Abd Alla, Ahmed Hamed Mahmoud, Tajeldin Elnour Badawi, Ahmed Yousif, Abd Elrahman Esihag Hassan

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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