NAIROBI, Kenya, April 18- With only seven matches of the season played so far, pressure is building on Sofapaka, the 2009 champions, who sit eight points adrift of Kenyan Premier League (KPL) leaders Tusker.
Since taking charge of big spending Sofapaka three weeks ago, coach Francis Kimanzi has been fighting to dispel the Messianic status his much hyped return generated.
“I have no magic solution. I need patience to build this team and it will take time. We need to work on our mistakes but I believe I have the players have the character to deliver,” he said.
On Saturday, the former Harambee Stars and Mathare United tactician took his new side to Naivasha to face reigning Kenyan Premier League (KPL) titleholders, Ulinzi Stars under pressure to deliver after Rangers halted their run with a 2-0 stuffing the previous weekend.
Inside four minutes, Kimanzi was in raptures after Humphrey Mieno gave his side the lead but Ulinzi, who have been struggling for form suddenly gave everyone a tacit reminder why they won the competition last year.
The look on Kimanzi’s face said it all as Ulinzi ran rings around his side and turned the match 2-1 to their favour through Stephen Waruru and Eric Apul.
“We are yet to get to the level we were last year but we are heading there. I gave my boys confidence and told them to enjoy the game if they wanted to win. We did not force anything since I had told them it’s not a must to win,” Ulinzi coach, Benjamin Nyangweso observed.
As a result, the military side rose to seventh on 11 points with Sofapaka’s second successive league defeat seeing them stuck on ten and slipping down to ninth.
At the top, the front runners led by Tusker who last won the domestic crown in 2007, showed no signs of relenting with five points separating the top five.
The Brewers enjoyed their second Coastal bliss this season when they bottled Bandari in Mombasa 1-0 to continue their imperious travelling form that has seen them stop Congo United (Mombasa), Sony Sugar (Awendo) and Chemelil (Chemelil) on the trot.
Western Stima short circuited Mathare 1-0 in Bukhungu, to retain their runner-up placing on 16 points, two adrift of the leaders as KCB ran riot over Congo, stuffing the Mombasa side 4-0 to hold on to third with 15.
Congo’s Gideon Ochieng won the managerial sack race of the 2011 KPL season after being fired by club chairman Fadhil Bayusuf after the final whistle. Former AFC Leopards custodian, Gilbert Selebwa, is set to take over the winless side that sits bottom with two points.
Rangers, who are yet to have a sponsor after Postal Corporation pulled out, continue to confound their status as they held on to fourth with 14 points with another classy 3-0 thumping of Sony who having lost their fourth successive game, find themselves hovering precariously above the relegation zone.
Fifth placed Gor Mahia (13) gave hundreds of their fans who made the K’Ogalo migration to Thika for the first ‘Milk Derby’ against fellow Brookside sponsored side Thika United the reason to return home in ecstasy after beating the home side 3-1.
Archrivals AFC Leopards had Congolese national Hugo Nzangu to thank after his two well taken goals saw off a determined Nairobi City Stars 2-1 to rise to sixth on 12 points.
City Stars who were buoyed by their first win of the season against Gor last week almost claimed another big scalp after John Ambuko’s own goal pulled them level but Nzangu’s late effort left them second from bottom on four.
James Nandwa’s prodigious return to Karuturi Sports after being relieved of his duties as Tusker has failed to inspire the flowermen who lost 1-0 to fellow strugglers Chemelil in Naivasha.
Easter weekend fixtures have Stima welcoming Tusker in Bukhungu in the first top-two clash of the season as KCB host free falling Sony. Rangers have a date with Karuturi in Naivasha with AFC Leopards travelling to Mombasa to face Congo United.
Bandari will entertain Ulinzi, City Stars host Sofapaka, Thika United play their second home match in a row with Chemelil visiting Thika as Gor take on Mathare United.