Finally, doomed City Stars bid farewell to the KPL
The relegation axe finally fell on cash-strapped Nairobi City Stars FC on Sunday with two games to spare after four seasons of staging the Great Escape to remain in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) following a 3-1 defeat to visiting Kakamega Homeboyz at Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani.
David Okoth, Hedmond Mauda and Ali Bhai were on target for the Mike Mururi coached side, while Pa-Jassey Mulie grabbing the consolation for City Stars who will play in the National Super League next season.
Assistant coach Dennis Okoth led the Kawangware based side from the dugout when their head coach Richard Tamale went on strike on the day their wretched fate was sealed.
The match was delayed for half an hour for lack of an ambulance further adding to the sense of foreboding for the side that earned promotion nine seasons ago and has famously established a reputation of surviving against all odds including last season when they won seven of their last nine to remain in the KPL.
Last year, the impasse between KPL and Football Kenya Federation over the constitution of the top flight saw the former refuse to relegate any side from the competition from the 2014 season as City Stars survived alongside Nakuru All Stars.
Playing for their lives on Sunday, City Stars came to the match with an attacking mentality, knowing anything less than a win would confirm their drop from the top flight.
Ezekiel Odera and Robert Ndung’u almost found the back of the net in the third minute with the latter losing his footing just before pulling the trigger with Homeboyz custodian Michael Wanyika out of his line.
Miscommunication at the backline cost City Stars dearly in the seventh when Calvin Masawa and Arthur allowed Okoth space to unleash a cracker that goalkeeper Victor Odhiambo could not stop as they fell behind.
Former AFC Leopards attacking midfielder Mauda doubled the lead in the 26th, when he danced through City Stars defence inside the box before shooting low for his first goal of the season.
Another shambles in the home team’s rear guard in the 32nd almost gifted Homeboyz the third when Kepha Mutuu stole a poor back pass from Masawa but failed to beat Odhiambo.
Realizing his ship was fast sinking, coach Okoth restructured his midfield withdrawing Joseph Sakwa for Ben Iregi in the 37th with the new man restoring calm as City Stars started to stem the tide.
Odera’s acrobatic attempt four minutes to the break was the closest they came to pulling one back but Wanyika was alert in the Homeboyz goal to keep the effort out.
City Stars hogged possession in the early exchanges of the second stanza but they fell further behind against the run of play in the 52nd when Bhai converted a cross from Mutuu for Homeboyz’s third which certainly hammered the final nail to their KPL coffin.
To their credit, the battered home side refused to drop their heads as they stepped up attack forcing Mururi to bring on Andrew Kulecho and Andrew Murunga for Bhai and Hamisi.
Murunga, who has so far netted five for the Kakamega based side then wasted a glorious opportunity to make it 4-0 with only Wanyika to beat in the six yard box.
And four minutes into stoppage time, Muli ensured they bowed out of the KPL in style when he let fly from long-range as Homeboyz rose to seventh with 40 points in their pursuit to finish among the top eight following their return to the division last season.
Stars accrued 18 points from 28 matches played thus far with three wins, nine draws and 16 losses in a wretched run that saw their fabled powers to mount late surges for survival desert them.
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