Football Football

Sofapaka arrest Ulinzi’s title hopes


NAIROBI, Kenya, November 22- The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title race was blown wide open Tuesday night after the battle between the last two champions saw Sofapaka fire to a 2-0 victory over crown holders Ulinzi Stars.

Naturalised Congolese born Kenyan, Bob Mugalia, netted the opener on the quarter hour mark before setting up Ugandan international Musa Mudde to score the second in the 78th to dent the soldier’s chance of holding on to the KPL trophy.

The Nyayo National Stadium result left Ulinzi one point behind leaders Tusker FC, 55 against 54 and the 2007 winners will fancy their chances to reclaim the big eared diadem on Saturday when they host doomed Congo United in Mumias.

Ulinzi on the other hand play faltering Rangers at their Afraha Stadium home turf in Nakuru crossing their fingers that victory coupled with a slip up from the Brewers will contrive to hand them the trophy.

KPL chief executive, Jack Oguda, released a statement earlier in the day stating that the last round of fixtures would be brought forward by an hour.

“Due to television timings and the current unpredictable weather conditions, all KPL round 30 matches will kick-off simultaneously at 2pm on Saturday,” Oguda said in the statement.

That would all have been academic had Ulinzi taken their chance against a side widely acknowledged as the most technically gifted in the league due to the deep pockets of Sofapaka FC president, Elly Kalekwa, who has spent a fortune on recruiting players at a premium.

It all went horribly wrong for the soldiers when a fast break saw Mudde fail to control the ball at the edge of the Ulinzi area and when it fell to Mugalia, the Harambee Stars forward took a touch before dispatching an unstoppable rocket past Jacktone Odhiambo for the lead.

Both teams continued shadow boxing without landing any solid blows until the break where referee Isaac Ochieng sent them to the dressing room with Sofapaka a goal to the good.

The defending champions came out blazing upon resumption leading to a more open play but the first clear cut chance fell to Sofapaka when they launched a lightening foray into the soldier’s rearguard on 65 minutes.

However, the recipient of the final ball, John Onami, fluffed his lines when through with only Odhiambo to beat in goal.

Three minutes later, KPL leading scorer, Stephen Waruru, found himself one on one with Duncan Ochieng in the Sofapaka net but spurned a glorious opportunity for the equaliser.

Ulinzi came even closer in the 76th when defender Mulinge Munandi saw his effort cannon off the post and in the next attack; Sofapaka picked the pockets of the military men in devastating fashion.

Once again, the charged Mugalia was in the thick of things, tearing through the wing before cutting back to Mudde who had made an intelligent run and he duly tucked the second goal with sweet connection.

Following the win, Francis Kimanzi, who will take the national team Harambee Stars to the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup that kicks-off on Friday, saw his side consolidate third place on 51 points, four clear of Gor Mahia with a game to play.

His opposite number, Benjamin Nyangweso, will be left to pick up the pieces of a title charge that has been derailed by two crippling defeats at the same venue, the first, a 1-0 reverse to AFC Leopards last week before Sofapaka hammed another nail on the coffin for the title hopes.

Only two days ago, the soldiers had assumed pole position in the title race after hammering Chemelil 4-1 in Nakuru as Tusker slumped to a 1-1 stalemate against a struggling Karuturi.

How fast things chance in football. The grand finale awaits on Saturday.