State of KPL: Its Tusker’s to lose as league takes break
The 2016 Kenyan Premier League title is for Tusker FC to lose after a dramatic round 25 of action over the weekend that saw Sofapaka a telling blow to history chasing champions Gor Mahia.
The Brewers held their nerve after racing to a 2-0 first half lead in Nakuru to sink stubborn Muhoroni Youth 2-1 as bottom-side Batoto ba Mungu keeper, Mathias Kigonya, developed octopus arms to thwart K’Ogalo in a backs-to-the-wall rearguard display that yielded a 0-0 stalemate.
Paul Nkata’s Tusker frothed over to 48 points with five games to go as the league takes a fortnight break to pave way to GOtv Shield semis and ensuing Fifa international week with an easier run-in compared to the three-peat titleholders ahead of their November 19 final day showdown.
A trip to floundering Bandari FC who were mugged 3-1 by struggling Nairobi City Stars is the Brewers next fixture before they host the giant killers who are adept at staging relegation-defying acts.
Tusker then travel to the Awendo Green Stadium cauldron to face Sony Sugar in what on paper represents their toughest fixture before they welcome an out of sorts AFC Leopards in their penultimate match.
It is a game some Ingwe fans on social media have ‘pleaded’ with their besieged team to ‘lose’ to block their sworn enemies and titleholders from achieving the pioneering feat of lifting a fourth successive crown.
On October 12, Gor resume their dented title defence in a mid week clash when they lock horns with Western Stima who rose to third (40) after skinning Leopards 1-0 away on Saturday in an outcome that saw Ingwe supporters cage their players for their torrid run of results.
They will then take to the pitch for the return leg of the Mashemeji Derby against the archenemy on October 23 in an unpredictable fixture that has defied league form and positions in the past.
In March, Leopards brought K’Ogalo’s unbeaten KPL run to a bitter end in a 1-0 victory that saw the end of Scotsman, Frank Nutall at the helm having led them to the unbeaten 2015 campaign.
Fifth-placed Mathare United (38) and a daunting trip to Muhoroni who were left stuck in ninth (33) after defeat to Tusker lay in wait for Gor before their season-ending titanic contest with the pretenders to their crown that could either be a title decider or a parade of honour based on the preceding results.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, games are running out for City Stars (17) and Sofapaka (16) to save their top flight status despite posting commendable results over the weekend.
Ushuru FC (24) are also not out of the woods yet despite striking very late to salvage a 1-1 draw at eighth-placed Kakamega Homeboyz (35) who are guaranteed of KPL football next season after earning promotion last year.
Directly above them, Leopards (29) and Thika (25) could yet be sucked into the battle to avoid the drop if they fail to notch at least two victories from their last five.
“Our mid-season recruitment was not good at all. Of the players we signed, at least seven of them were not getting any playtime in their respective clubs so they arrived here very unfit. It’s shocking that even at these closing stages of the season, some players still want to be in the comfort zone and are not giving their all for the club.
“They don’t know what they want and going forward I can only work with players that show they actually want to play. Ingwe is a team where players come to perform,” dejected interim Ingwe Coach, Ezekiel Akwana, told Citizen Digital after their third defeat of the season to Stima.
As Posta Rangers’ Head Coach, Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno hinted after his team’s 0-0 draw against Mathare, most mid-table teams already feel they have hit their targets for the season and it is time to ease off having locked their KPL status for 2017.
Ulinzi Stars (37), Rangers (37), Homeboyz and Muhoroni follow each other in third order from sixth to ninth places on the log with the only battle remaining among them is to lock a top eight finish that will qualify them for the Ksh1m KPL Top 8 knock-out tournament next year.
The GOtv Shield semi-finals that will be played on Saturday and Sunday and the Fifa international calendar week that runs from October 3 to 11.
-Additional reporting by Matthews Mutai
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