NAIROBI, April 21 – From a tight Group C, Ulinzi Stars and Sony Sugar advanced to the quarter final of the April Kenya Premier League Under-20 Championship after 3-0 and 4-1 wins over Ushuru FC and Bandari FC respectively.
Ulinzi and Sony tied on points and goal difference but the boys from Nakuru finished top of the group ahead of Sony on head-to-head record, having beaten them 3-1 in the first group match.
Heading into the final group matches, it was anyone’s game with all teams in the group tied on three points and each needed a win to sail to the last eight.
At the end of the two games played concurrently at the Ruaraka and Camp Toyoyo grounds, it was Ulinzi and Sony who were more precise in front of goal to win.
The military side needed a last gasp goal from Salim Swale in the final minute of the match to top the group at a water logged Ruaraka pitch and had they won by a goal less, then Sony who were winning against Bandari in Toyoyo would have topped the group.
Sony scored all five goals of the match against Bandari, albeit one in their own end.
Pascal Otieno and Ibrahim Mohammed scored two each to give Sony a commanding 4-0 lead but in the dying minutes of the match Crispin Otieno conceded an own goal to give the Mombasa based side a consolation.
In Ruaraka, Ulinzi would have won by double figures had they taken their chances, in a match that Ushuru failed to live up to.
Knowing a win would have given them hopes of a last eight place, Ushuru began the match on the front foot and within the opening two minutes they came close with Paul Mateba shooting wide after breaking on the right.
Ken Antonio had a chance five minutes later but his shot from the left in a decent goal scoring range whisked wide.
Ulinzi picked the cue from their survival at the back and pushed in attack with vice captain Vincent Ochieng having an effort from a corner cleared off the line in the 10th minute.
Three minutes later, Ibrahim Shambi had a long range effort pushed onto the crossbar by the Ushuru keeper as Ulinzi became a bigger threat moving forward.
The soggy pitch never helped matters for either side as the pace of the game hugely died down.
Ulinzi got into the lead in the 20th minute, Charles Oki tapping simply into the net from a yard out after Moses Mwangi had cut back a cross from the left.
Ulinzi were now comfortably on the driving seat with Shambi and Ochieng’ controlling the midfield, but their biggest undoing was the final decisions when it mattered most in front of goal.
–Ushuru down to ten men
In the second half, Ulinzi came back stronger as they knew the only way to top the group was via a comfortable score-line and three minutes after the restart, Oki came close with his header from a Shambi free kick coming off the bar.
On the hour mark though, they doubled the lead with central defender Dennis Owino glancing in a header beautifully from the edge of the six yard box from a Peter Owuor corner.
With news from Toyoyo that Sony was 2-0 up, Ulinzi knew they had the top spot under wraps and started becoming complacent. They had chance after chance with Mwangi and Oki coming closest with poorly taken shots that went wide.
Ulinzi coach Fred Ogot pulled out left back Ali Swale for danger man Sedrick Asmani as soon as they heard Sony’s score was up to four at Toyoyo, knowing they now needed two more to top the table.
Asmani brought the much needed attacking punch and in the 75th minute he cut back a cross after some good dribbling on the left which Oki blasted wide.
Again, Asmani took on his markers on the left two minutes later but Oki’s shot from the cutback was saved by the Ushuru keeper and the rebound from Shambi saved as well.
Ushuru were reduced to ten men after substitute Abdallah Makame was sent off for a second bookable offense.
No sooner had Sony conceded an own goal in Toyoyo than Swaleh popped up at the far post to bounce in a header for what would be Ulinzi’s ticket to the top of the table.
Ulinzi now meet the second placed team in Group D while Sony will face the winners from the same group.