Sofapaka give up Gor chase despite caging Leopards
Sofapaka FC Head Coach Sam Ssimbwa paid tribute to his charges as they defeated AFC Leopards 2-0 in their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) tie at the Narok County Stadium on Sunday.
The Ugandan tactician admitted their Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title ambitions may have already evaporated but gave credit to his charges for shrugging a run of three successive matches without a win to complete the double over Loeopards.
Feni Ali gave the hosts the advantage with the result lifting the Batoto ba Mungu up third on the KPL log, a point above Ulinzi Stars who fell 1-0 to Kakamega Homeboyz at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru.
Jeremiah Wanjala’s first half penalty saw the visitors slash Gor Mahia FC’s lead at the top back to eight points.
“There has been a problem in our past few matches, but today we corrected ourselves well. Beating a big team like Leopards home and away a big achievement,” Ssimbwa told Citizen Digital.
His Ingwe counterpart Robert Matano rued fatigue after his players made the trip from their Nairobi base to Narok hours before taking to the pitch.
“Our opponents had all the time to prepare here since midweek while we had to travel on match day. The players could not get enough time to eat, rest and prepare for the match. It didn’t just affect us, it ruined our chances completely,” Matano lamented.
At the Thika Sub-County Stadium, Thika United picked up a shock 1-0 win over Kariobangi Sharks to climb out of the relegation zone as Mathare United took their place in second from bottom following their 1-1 draw away at Chemelil Sugar.
Sofapaka got off to a dream start as Ali struck with only two minutes gone on the clock before the same player ripped the net with an 18-yard belter as the game approached the half-hour mark.
In Nakuru, Ulinzi endured a shambolic first half and were duly punished for it after Brian Birgen’s handled the ball inside the area to concede a 37th minute penalty. Wanjala stepped up to send goalkeeper James Saruni the wrong way for the opener.
On the stroke of half time Ulinzi Stars top marksman Stephen Waruru whose goalscoring magic seem to wilt by every match they play wasted a golden opportunity to cancel the lead when his shot sailed over the cross bar.
A seemingly frustrated coach Benjamin Nyangweso recalled Stephen Waruru and the equally ineffective striker Michael Otieno to the bench and replaced them with Enosh Ochieng and Cliff Kasuti.
The substitution sparked the hosts into life as they threatened from a series of attacks, forcing Homeboyz to retreat and defend their slender lead.
Kasuti should have levelled matters when Daniel Waweru’s corner kick fell kindly to his path, only to shoot wide with the goal gaping.
The winger nearly made amends moments later but his wild shot from inside the edge of the penalty box was palmed away for another corner.
In the 65th minute it was the turn for Enosh Ochieng to fire wide when his rasping shot missed the target by inches.
The Military Men opened more fire, forcing Muiruri to make two quick successive changes; resting Mike Khaduli and Hedmond Mauda and introducing Festo Omukoto and David Okoth.
The move paid off as Ulinzi’s attacking rage toned down.
“It was a tough tie and I am happy the boys maintained a tough game character and defended solidly to keep our lead and the maximum points intact,” Muiruri said.
His counterpart Benjamin Nyangweso snubbed the press and instead quickly retreated for a brief chat with the club chairman Eric Oloo.
-Additional reporting by Reuben Motochi.
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