BUKHUNGU, Kakamega, October 21- Suspect officiating came to the fore once again in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) on Monday as Kakamega Homeboyz gave themselves hopes of avoiding the drop with a 2-0 victory over 10-man Thika United.
The match played at Bukhungu Stadium, in Kakamega saw Allan Otindo give the hosts the lead in the ninth minute before a contentious Andrew Kulecho penalty in the 68th settled the game that saw Homeboyz climb to within a point of Sony Sugar in 14th on the table.
The match degenerated into a farce however, when first, Thika protested the award for the spot-kick given for a handball in the box following a Dennis Mukaisi cross that seemed soft at the least.
Soon afterwards, the visitors had the ball in the net but the referee ruled it out for offside with his assistant’s flag down and with five minutes to go, John Kamau’s side thought they had one of their own for a foul on Harambee Stars midfielder, Francis Kahata in the box but the whistler waved play-on.
This incensed Thika players who surrounded the referee in protest and when their captain, Dennis Odhiambo, fouled Keiphas Baraza, fisticuffs started between him and the Homeboyz bench.
A free for all ensued as both set of players came together with the ref at the centre of it all and when the dust settled, he sent off Odhiambo.
Play resumed and after ten minutes of added on time, the referee blew for full time.
“It seems the only realistic target for us now is to finish in the Top 8 since you all saw what happened here. We were denied a clean goal and they got a ‘penalty’ that should not have been,” an incensed Kamau said post match.
“You saw it last week too (2-1 home loss to Gor Mahia), it appears that certain results are arranged and this is damaging our football since sponsors will not be interested if things go that way.
“I usually do not like commenting about referees but having prepared for an away game only to come here and get this, I do not know what we have to do. This victory will not save them from relegation if they are to go down,” he fumed.
His opposite number, Edward Manoah, hailed his charges character and backed them to pick up the necessary points in their last four matches to avoid the drop.
“I’m not surprised they performed this way today. This team consists of young players, fresh from schools and no other side has such youth.
“With every match they have been learning quickly and it’s not yet over, the war still goes on. I ask everybody to remain focused so that we can stay in the Premier League next year,” he added.
“With the renewed spirit that is in the team, there is no reverse gear for us and next year, they will have the time to showcase their talents,” Manoah stated.
On the last ten minutes drama, the Homeboyz tactician said their opponents were frustrated by failing to beat a team they thought they would floor.
“The pressure that was cropping in because they were two goals down and they had theirs ruled offside and in my own opinion, it was that frustration that caused their reaction on the field.
“They need to come back to their senses and continue what they were doing since the league started because they have games to go,” he went on.
In Nairobi, Mathare United were forced to a 1-1 draw by Muhoroni Youth who are also battling the drop to leave both teams precariously hanging close to the drop zone.
Again, match referee James Kagera came to the fore when he sent off veteran former Stars defender, Edgar Ochieng to give Muhoroni a lifeline after Roy Syambo opened the scores for Mathare with a curling shot.
They took full advantage of their superior numbers to secure an equalizer late on through Enos Ochieng’.
Officiating has clouded the KPL this season particularly in games that are not televised.
“The referee’s commission should really look at themselves and see whether this is how the game is going to be played in this country,” Kamau offered as a broadside.
Following the results at the foot of the table, the pressure is now on Sony, who have two games in hand over their nearest rivals to force a result at Chemelil Sugar on Wednesday to boost their chances of escaping the axe.