MACHAKOS, Kenya Apr 28 – Ulinzi Stars endured a nervous end to the match as they progressed to the final of the Kenya Premier League Under-20 Championship with a 3-2 win over Gor Mahia at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Thursday morning.
The Nakuru based side had rallied from a goal down to push the score-line to 3-1, but Kevinton Machika’s 70th minute goal saw Ulinzi defend nervously and in numbers, also enduring five minutes of added time to sail through.
Gor had a perfect start, making the most of an error of judgment from Ulinzi keeper Francis Odemba with winger Wilson Mwendwa clipping a header over the advancing keeper from a Donald Opiyo cross.
Ulinzi were however not deterred going down early and they took control of the match, spraying passes well and building up play from the back anchored by the impressive skipper Ibrahim Shambi.
They got back to level terms in the 13th minute through centre back Dennis Ouma who rose to head in his third goal of the tournament unmarked at the far post from a Salim Ali free-kick on the right.
It turned out to be an end-to-end balanced affair between the two sides and the Gor juniors had three chances back to back.
Joseph Waruinge had shots from the edge of the box go wide in the 18th and 20th minutes respectively while Alpha Onyango also had an effort go wide in the 22nd minute after finding acres of space at the edge of the box.
On the turn, Ulinzi had a perfect chance to get into the lead but Stephen Mueni’s shot from inside the box was well saved by Otieno.
The boys from Nakuru however got into the lead in the 35th minute, Vincent Otieno heading into the net after Mueni nodded into the area a cross from Charles Okii.
Three minutes to the break, Mueni should have taken Ulinzi three up but his effort to lift the ball over an advancing Felix Otieno in the Gor goal went just inches over.
Ulinzi started the second half on the same gear they finished the first and six minutes in, they were three-up, Mweni hitting the back of the net with a cracking shot from the edge of the box after beautifully bringing down Ibrahim Shambi’s cross.
Despite seeing their early lead cut out, Gor piled the pressure on Ulinzi knowing the tie was still within reach. They had two chances, first Amos Nondi shooting inches wide after wriggling into the box in the 55th minute.
Two minutes later, Mwendwa failed to control a clever pass from Nondi with only the keeper to beat, the ball rolling out of play.
The K’Ogalo juniors kept the push and they were rewarded in the 70th minute, substitute Machika shooting into the net under pressure from two Ulinzi defenders to revive hopes.
Waruinge had a header from a Nondi free kick go over in the 87th minute while two minutes into added time, a mix up between the Ulinzi keeper and his defense almost gifted Gor the equalizer, but the custodian sprung back to pluck the ball off the ground with Waruinge lurking in the vicinity.