NAIROBI, Kenya, July 23- Two late goals in the second half gave Thika United a 2-0 win over title chasing Mathare United in a Kenyan Premier League match played at Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.
Nigerian Onwudi Chubueze, signed in June from second tier side Shabana FC, opened the scores in the 78th minute before Eugene Mukangula doubled the tally in two minutes later.
It would be different to tell, from the first half that it is Thika who are lower on the table compared to Mathare as the latter did not have a shot on target in the entire opening 45 minutes.
Thika United head coach James Nandwa had tweaked up his line-up, in a bid to shut out the ball-playing nature of Francis Kimanzi’s Mathare.
Skipper Dennis Odhiambo had been pushed up to defensive midfield, partnering the combative Michael Luvutsi while Sammy Mejja, who has been on and off injury for the last two seasons, was drafted in at left back, with Vincent Omumbo getting back to the team partnering Collins Okumu in defense.
Kimanzi had made only one change to his team, bringing in Alphonce Ndonye into midfield, replacing Whyvonne Isuza.
Mukangula, who had been impressive in the opening exchanges, was the first to knock on the door with a well taken shot from the right which went straight into Wycliffe Kasaya’s arms.
Thika’s tactical discipline was apt ensuring they shut out all the spaces, neutralizing the effect of the deadly Eric Johannah who at times was forced to drop deep into his own half in search of the ball.
Thika had another chance in the 21st minute when Joel Tatah went past Bernard Otieno with a little nutmeg on the left but his ambitious shot from distance didn’t do much to trouble Kasaya.
Nandwa’s men had two chances back-to- back from a freekick 20 yards out in the 31st and 33rd minutes, but both went begging.
First, a training ground routine ended up in Mejja hitting it straight to the wall but the execution was better in the second, Vincent Omumbo’s effort rising a meter above the crossbar.
On the other end, Mathare had a free-kick of their own, but Johannah was wasteful hitting the ball up high.
In the second half, Kimanzi seemed to have talked some sense into his side as they came better, playing with more purpose with Ndonye the first to show the side’s intent with a low shot that however went straight into Hamuza Muwonge’s arms.
But Thika were not cowed as they kept their rhythm up. They came close on the hour mark with Omumbo’s wonderfully struck freekick being well tipped over the bar by Kasaya as it destined for the top right corner.
Kimanzi sought to add some punch into his forward line, pulling out Chris Oduor for Obadiah Ndege.
However, Thika still retained their pressure and they came close again in the 75th minute with Bernard Otieno making a superb clearance from a Chibueze cross as Mukangula lurked at the far post waiting to tap in.
But that was just a sign of good things to come. Three minutes later, Chibueze opened the scores with a dink over Kasaya from a tight angle after racing onto the ball with the Mathare backline assuming the ball would roll off.
Two minutes later, another defensive mishap gave Thika a second goal when Mukangula raced past Robinson Kamura and George ‘Wise’ Owino to volley the ball home past Kasaya.
Kimanzi reacted immediately, throwing caution to the wind by pulling out right-back Otieno for youngster Cliff Nyakeya while Duke Abuya came on for Daniel Mwaura.
Thika threw everything in attack and Johannah came close with a shot from distance but Muwonge punched the ball out for a corner.
Thika managed to hold on with Nandwa bringing in defensive midfielder Samwel Mwanje for Mukangula, a clear bid to secure the win.