Sports | The Northern Link UG | Defending champions Express started their title defense on a wrong twist as they fell 2-0 to debutants Arua Hill at Mutesa II stadium, Wankulukuku.
Robert Eseru and Rashid Kawawa scored the goals for the visitors but it was former Red Eagle Alfred Leku who grabbed the headlines for a Man of the Match performance.
Following a goalless first half in which Express FC missed good chances through Eric Kambale and Martin Kiiza, the visitors broke the deadlock after an hour.
Leku, scorer of the goal that saved Express from relegation four years ago beat Murushid Jjuuko on the break and set up Eseru who closely controlled before putting the ball beyond Joel Mutakubwa in the 62nd minute.
The goal came moments after Wasswa Bbosa had made a first change taking off Muzamiru Mutyaba for Ivan Mayanja.
He reacted by making an attack-minded change as he withdrew defender Isa Lumu for striker Raymond Walugembe and his opposite number Livingstone Mbabazi also took off goal scorer Eseru for Allan Mugalu and later Sharif Saaka for Ivan Eyamu.
The hosts continued to threaten as the Kongolo sat behind the ball and playing on the counter.
Express had a penalty claim after Kambale was felled but the ref correctly gave a free-kick outside the area which went to waste.
Substitute Samuel Ssekamatte held off his marker after Leku had done the donkey work and laid on for Kawawa who made no mistake but bury the Red Eagles with a second goal.
Bbosa admitted his side was lethargic and promised to return stronger for the next encounter.
“We didn’t use our chances and they converted theirs,” he said.
“We shall regroup and return stronger. This is a marathon,” he added.
Express’ next game is a trip to Bombo to face UPDF on October 23 while Arua Hill will be at Barifa playing against SC Villa in case they are put back on the fixture.
Meanwhile, at Ababet Greenlight Stadium, Onduparaka drew 1-1 with UPDF.
Ahimbisibwe gave UPDF the lead in the first half, and Agau Rashid tied things up after the break.