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Anxious wait for Top 8 semis

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ALLAN-WANGANAIROBI, Kenya, April 21 – After identifying the semi finalists of the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Top 8, it’s an anxious wait for defending champions, Tusker FC, local giants Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards as well as debutants KCB ahead of the last four draw that will be conducted on Tuesday.

Many will be waiting to see if league champions K’Ogalo and bitter rivals Ingwe will set up the first KPL Top 8 derby final after the latter pulled out in 2012 when they were paired together in the quarters due to security concerns.

Gor went ahead to claim the title after edging out Ulinzi Stars 2-0 and it will be eagerly waited to see if they will become the first team to reclaim the trophy.

The two have never met in Top 8 and it will depend on the draw to see if they will meet early or in the finals depending if they win their semis.

However, this year’s competition was full of surprises that saw debutants KCB shock Ulinzi 2-1 in the quarter-finals to register their first win of the season despite struggling in the league that has seen them rooted at the bottom of the log with three points.

If that was not enough, K’Ogalo finally had sweet revenge on bogey team Thika United who denied them their 13th KPL title the same year after forcing 1-1 draw to gift Tusker their 10th silverware.

After being a stumbling block in the last five encounters, Gor finally ended the ‘curse’ by eliminating last year’s finalist 2-1 in the domestic Cup courtesy of their current top scorer Dan Sserunkuma who netted his first goal ever in the competition and the resurgent Rama Salim.

“I’m under no pressure ahead of this match, my opponents (Gor) might be because they view themselves as a big team. For me I have beaten them and I will be going for another win,” Thika United coach John Kamau, said in a pre match interview.

“I don’t believe on bogey teams for me every team can be anyone so Thika is a strong team and our main aim is to perform well in the tournament and since it’s a knock out we will be looking forward to win the game in regular time,” his opposite number Bobby Williamson, who was leading his charges in the competition for the first time stated.

For the Bankers, the win was a sigh of following their poor run in the league that resulted to the sacking of their head coach Abdallah Juma who failed to register a single victory in nine matches.

Caretaker coach Daniel Oluoch, steered the team to their first win of the season after gunning down the soldiers through teenager Chrispinus Onyango, who was the hero and Paul Kiongera, to see coach Robert Matano crash out of the competition he won last season with Tusker.

Of the four teams that are in the last four, KCB will still be seen as underdogs and it’s yet to be seen if they will pull another shock against the three big teams (Gor, AFC and Tusker FC).

The fifth Top 8 also saw past winners, Sofapaka and Ulinzi exit the tournament in the early stage.

Batoto Ba Mungu who were inaugural winners in 2010 found the going tough when the Brewers eliminated them 6-5 on post match penalties while Leopards cruised past newcomers Bandari.

Ingwe who are experiencing a poor stint in the league narrowly sailed to the semis after the Docker’s defender Omar Islam netted an own goal in the third minute of added time to give the then coach James Nandwa, breathing space after receiving pressure from fans.

However, it’s unfortunate the Harambee Stars assistant coach will not finish what he started after he was fired days later.

On the other hand it was a hard fought clash for the defending champions under new coach Francis Kimanzi, who had to advance to the semis through the spot-kicks after battling to a 1-1 draw with Sofapaka.

It was not an easy ride in the penalties either after both sides were forced to head to the sudden death kicks where Tusker keeper and shot-stopper Samuel Odhiambo was the hero, after stopping Eugene Asike’s penalty.

K’Ogalo and Tusker are seen as favorites to reach the finals since they enjoy a good run in the league with Brewers leading the log with 18 points, one ahead of Gor after nine rounds of KPL matches.

Gor and Tusker will be looking to reclaim the title while Leopards and KCB will be going for their first.
For the first time the tournament was staged in three different counties, Nairobi, Machakos and Nakuru as the semis that are scheduled to run next weekend will take place at the same venues in home and away basis.

The winner will pocket Sh1m (USD 11,534).

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