Gor on the move as newcomers feel the KPL strain
As Gor Mahia slowly gather momentum for a record 16th Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title tilt, champions Tusker FC have spiralled down to the bottom of the standings as their struggles under new Head Coach George ‘Best’ Nsimbe heighten.
The titleholders who swept all before them last term have lost both their fixtures in the new term– a dismal record shared with three of the four promoted sides – and pressure will be mounting on Nsimbe to provide a response but its still two early for anyone to rule them out completely.
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“I am happy because we have collected three points, but I am even happier that we played good football and beat the reigning Kenyan champions.
“We were stronger than them in midfield and the boys’ positioning today was also excellent. It is still too early to judge the performance, but I want the boys to know that it is not going to be easy especially in this first half of the season,” Thika coach, James Nandwa who recovered from a narrow opening day defeat emphasised.
In contrast, their closest challengers to the crown in 2016 and the team they dethroned after holding on to the crown three years in a row have gotten out of the blocks with similar venom that saw them win the 2015 KPL unbeaten.
Having humbled new boys Kariobangi Sharks 3-1 in their opener, Gor faced another 2016 National Super League (NSL) high-flier, Zoo Kericho in Kisumu on Saturday and their marquee signing who is the reigning KPL Player of the Year, Kenneth Muguna opened his K’Ogalo account with the match winner.
Gor Captain Musa Mohammed attributed the positive start to Head Coach Jose Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira.
“There is more team work than was witnessed during the previous season and it’s all because that’s what the Coach is instilling in us. In the first place it was not easy to adapt to his style of coaching and understanding exactly what he required of us.
“He came mid-season so readjusting was another challenge but starting with him feels a whole lot easier,” Musa told Citizen Digital as K’Ogalo opened a two-point lead at the top of the nascent table.
Arch rivals AFC Leopards who waited for an extra week to get their 2017 charge underway disciplined newcomers Nakumatt FC with a resounding 3-0 victory while Muhoroni Youth, who were reinstated to the top flight by a Tribunal ruling exacted some measure of revenge by silencing the Sharks 1-0.
“The boys are fantastically fit. They kept running and running even towards the end of the match and that is why we managed to score those last two goals. We were the fitter team. We have to keep working because we have had a problem scoring going by our build up games. We need to fix that while enhancing our strong points such as pace and power,” Leopards boss and Briton, Stewart Hall underscored.
Ghanaian striker Gilbert Fiamenyo who notched his first goal for the club, Ingotsi Marcellus and Paul Kiongera were on target as Hall’s side gave their fans hopes they can challenge for honours this term after an embarrassing 13th finish for the local titans.
“Not having a game last week put some pressure on us. Everyone wanted to see what Leopards were like. So the greatest challenge was to take the pressure off the boys and off myself. That is why I decided to leave out all the young players. In terms of performance, I thing we left it late. We missed too many chances but I think the fitness coach has done a fantastic job,” the former Azam FC tactician added.
Sharks who finished second in the NSL last season are heavily linked with Football Kenya Federation President, Nick Mwendwa who announced Muhoroni and 2009 champions Sofapaka had been demoted to the second tier before the two clubs appealed the decision to the Tribunal that ruled in their favour.
Sofapaka who escaped the drop on the last day of the season lost 1-0 to Sony Sugar in Nakuru as the cane millers recovered from their dispiriting opening day derby loss to Chemelil Sugar to register their first maximum points of the new term.
Second-placed Nzoia who announced their arrival to the KPL with a 5-2 thumping of Tusker were shut out to a barren draw by Mathare United who sit joint fourth with Bandari FC and Posta Rangers. The trio are behind Chemelil and Nzoia only on goal difference.
“It is not easy to play against a team like Nzoia, because they have a very interesting style of play. They keep running and running and when you are not looking, they will come from nowhere and place the ball before the defenders. It was tough containing them.
“I am happy with the draw, because we defended well even though we played with one man less in the last minutes of the game,” Mathare Head Coach Francis Kimanzi who started his season with a 3-2 victory over Thika observed.
-Material from kpl.co.ke used in this report
ROUND 2 RESULT SUMMARY
Thika United 2-0 Tusker (Thika County Stadium)
Nakumatt 3-0 AFC Leopards (Thika County Stadium)
Muhoroni Youth 1-0 Kariobangi Sharks (Muhoroni Stadium)
Sofapaka 0-1 Sony Sugar (Afraha Stadium)
Gor Mahia 1-0 Zoo Kericho (Moi Stadium)
Chemelil Sugar 1-1 Kakamega Homeboyz (Chemelil Stadium)