NAIROBI, Kenya, April 19 – Teenager Chrispinus Onyango was the hero as struggling KCB sailed to semi-finals of the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Top 8 after gunning down favoured Ulinzi Stars 2-1 in a thrilling encounter staged at Machakos Kenyatta Stadium on Saturday.
Onyango who was in KCB’s Under-19 squad last year scored the first and set up the second for Paul Kiongera to turn up a man-of-the-match performance as stand-in coach Daniel Olouch enjoyed victory on his debut, the first for the Bankers in ten outings this season.
The budding striker struck first in the 23rd minute before laying the ball to his partner, Kiongera to net the second a minute from time as substitute Allan Abulala halved the deficit in added time for the final score.
KCB stemmed a miserable run that saw them fire their head coach Abdallah Juma on Tuesday as Robert Matano in the Ulinzi dugout saw his grip on the Top 8 trophy he won last year with Tusker slip from his grasp.
“This is a platform we can use for our next matches. We won today because I told the players to believe in themselves and if they do that, we are capable of doing as well as last year when we finished fourth.
“We set out to allow Ulinzi to attack us and hit them at the counter and the strategy worked. Chrispinus did well in our Under-19 team last season and he can work well with Kiongera to give us the goals as they did today,” Oluoch, who expressed his interest on succeeding Abdallah on permanent basis underscored post-match.
“I do not have a proper striker and we need to get players who can finish the chances we created soon. For now, I will work with what I have but we did not play well today. The spirit in the team is good since I came here, that is not a problem,” Matano rued.
Oluoch rested regular keeper Sammy Okinda and preferred to start with Zachary Onyango who was instrumental as the Bankers dominated the first-half in terms of chances on goal as Ulinzi monopolised possession.
KCB threatened after six minutes when Onyango beat defender Geoffrey Kokoyo in the box only for him to blast over before Kiongera missed a one-on-one chance four minutes later after he failed to beat keeper Francis Ochieng with his hurriedly taken shot.
The former on-loan Gor Mahia forward was at it again in the 23rd, taking the advantage of Kokoyo who failed to clear the danger in the 18 yard box but again he pulled his shot wide.
The Banker’s efforts were rewarded two minutes later through Onyango who beat the offside trap to take full advantage of slack defending after referee Davis Omweno waved play on after Kiongera was fouled to slot the ball through Ochieng’s leg with a deft shot.
Ulinzi piled pressure looking for the equaliser with Kevin Amwayi coming close twice through his long-range shots but KCB enjoyed the first-half lead.
KCB were dealt with a huge blow in the 52nd when custodian Onyango got injured while attempting to make a clearance and Caleb Adola to replace him as the pattern from the first half manifested itself in the second with Ulinzi having more of the ball.
Ulinzi custodian Ochieng was booked for a harsh tackle on Kiongera five minutes later for a free-kick at the edge of the box but the latter’s shot was deflected out for a fruitless corner.
After attempting for several occasions, Kiongera finally found the back of the net one minute to full-time but it was thanks to another telling contribution from the teenager.
After the referee waved the advantage, Onyango left Amos Mwamburi trailing in his wake despite his best efforts to halt his run after a poor back pass and from a tight angle, he fed Kiongera who wrapped an instinctive left foot strike to the net for 2-0.
With seven minutes of added time indicated by fourth official, Peter Waweru, the Bankers had not wrapped the job and were made to endure a nervy five minutes when in the next attack, Abulala heading in a Stephen Waruru cross for 2-1.
Kiongera had the chance to wrap up the match when in a counter attack, he evaded three flailing Ulinzi defenders but could not fashion a finish, his hesitancy allowing them to regroup and hack clear but the damage had already been done.
KCB now joins defending champions Tusker FC and AFC Leopards in the two legged semi-final set to run from next weekend.
The tournament continues on Sunday when league champions Gor lock horns with plucky Thika United at the same venue.