Stima cling on as relegation battle hots up
Relegation battle in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) remained unsettled after round 33 action, but was shelved down to a four-club affair going to the last match of the 2017 season.
Western Stima, Thika United (35 points), Zoo Kericho (37) or Mathare United, whose tally is 38, will join Muhoroni Youth to the National Super League (NSL) in 2018, after the final round over the weekend.
The remaining KPL slot could be decided on goal-difference, in what could turn out to be a dramatic season finale.
Stima beat Posta Rangers 1-0 on Sunday, to keep their survival hopes alive as Mathare edged past Muhoroni 2-1. Thika and Zoo face off on Wednesday for their second last match that was postponed, which counts a lot in the relegation verdict.
The Kisumu based side stands the most vulnerable in the battle, with an -11 goal-difference despite tying with Thika on the log.
Thus, the Richard Makumi coached side will pray that all the teams in the relegation cage lose their matches, and beat hosts Chemelil Sugar with at least seven goals to better Mathare’s negative four.
Makumi has not inspired the team to the heights expected when he took over from long-term coach Henry Omino, upon his sacking in September for poor results.
“It has been a struggle. We have tried change things although the response has been very slow.
“The players have however shown a sense of determination in our past few matches, and winning against Posta Rangers is a statement they have not given up yet. We shall fight to the last day and see how other teams perform,” Makumi told.
The Ugandan tactician has an uphill task as Chemelil’s Juma Abdalla Juma has vowed to switch Stima off in the season ender, after succumbing to a 1-0 defeat to AFC Leopards on Sunday in Kasarani.
“We must beat Stima because we want to end the season on a positive note. We were denied our win today (Sunday) through poor officiating, and we hope to smile again against Stima.
“We will be at home and we have to give it to our fans too,” Juma told.
Zoo vs Thika
Thika and Zoo have a match in hand among the five teams, after their round 33 encounter was pushed to Wednesday.
It will matter a lot, as a win for Zoo will remove them from the red zone, while Thika and Stima will be left at situation where they can’t go beyond 38 points.
Consequently, a win for Thika will leave them soar to 38 points, level with Mathare awaiting their season ender against Bandari at home.
The spirit the 2008 champions have put in their past 7 matches almost assures them a place in the topflight next season, going seven matches unbeaten.
The Francis Kimanzi men did not surprise therefore by overcoming Muhoroni, and the coach is expecting a similar trend against Rangers in their last match of the season.
“Playing in Nairobi is always a plus for us. We have shown we can fight when it matters, and that has to be the case even against them (Posta).
“The players are very confident and it is a matter of wrapping up a season that has been quite difficult, and shift our focus to a better 2018 season,” Kimanzi offered after Muhoroni win.
At the summit, Gor took their tally to a record 73 following their 1-0 over Kakamega Homeboyz, as their lead scorer Jacques Tuyisenge notched his 13th goal of the season.
It was a comfortable win for the Dylan Kerr men awaiting coronation on Saturday, but Tuyisenge’s goal had little impact in his Golden Boot pursuit. Top scorer Masoud Juma bagged a brace in Kariobangi Sharks 4-1 win over Nzoia Sugar, to hit 17, four above the Rwandese international.
The runners up spot is still in contention, with Sofapaka needing just a point against Zoo Kericho in their last match to seal it, after beating deposed champions Tusker 1-0 in the weekend.
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