NAIROBI, Kenya, November 26- Tusker FC held their nerve to be crowned the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions in a dramatic end to the 2011 competition on Saturday.
Defender Joseph Shikokoti struck the priceless goal that ended relegated Congo’s brave resistance in the 48th minute to spark wild celebrations for the Brewers at the final whistle as the match ended 1-0 in their favour.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s unbelievable, the boys have worked so hard and it’s only fair they won the title. The 90 minutes were the worst I have ever had but we were rewarded for our consistency,” Tusker coach, Sammy Omollo, said after the final whistle as his men waited to lift the big eared league trophy.
In truth, it was not the straight forward stroll many had tipped the Brewers to enjoy in Mumias where the final game was relocated as they went in one point above last year’s winners Ulinzi Stars who were hosting Rangers in Afraha.
But as expected, Tusker got off the blocks blazing with strikers Dennis Mukaisi and John Emeka contriving to spurn five glorious first half opportunities.
The Nigerian import came close in the sixth minute when he just missed connecting with a looping cross from the left delivered by Joseph Mbugi.
Three minutes later, Emeka burst to the box from the right before cutting back to Mukaisi three yards from goal and his strike partner blazed over via a deflection.
Defender Ahmed Hassan denied Mukaisi from point blank in the 11th as the edgy Tusker strike force threw away another gilt edged chance.
The Brewers thought they had scored five minutes before the break when Mbugi’s fierce shot from 30 yards cannoned off the underside of the crossbar but it was chalked off.
It took only two minutes of the restart for Tusker to get on score sheet with news filtering to their dressing room that title rivals Ulinzi had raced to a 2-0 lead in Afraha courtesy of an Anthony Nderitu brace.
KPL had sent a replica trophy to Nakuru just in case Tusker bottled it and it seemed like their decision would be vindicated when again, Emeka got through on goal and his powerful shot was tipped over the bar by Congo keeper, Suleiman Hamisi who was turning a man-of-the-match shift between the sticks a minute into the second half.
Noah Abich brought in the resultant corner and Hamisi went down to snuff the danger when it landed only for his own defender to get it off his grip and his attempted clearance fell to Mbugi whose delivery to the area saw the towering Shikokoti stoop low to direct it to the net.
That prompted the Tusker players to mimic the marching celebration associated with Ulinzi as the nerves finally settled.
With a lead established, Omollo brought in Harambee Stars winger, Paul Were and they looked comfortable with their lead against a Congo side that lacked any impetus going forward.
That was until their captain; Ramah Salim almost gifted Ulinzi, who saw Nderitu notch his hat trick for a 3-0 lead their second crown.
Salim, who has been the bright spot in Congo’s doomed campaign burst through and his chip past Samuel Odhiambo was fractionally wide six minutes from time.
The Brewers held on for their first title since 2007 after three nerve wracking minutes of stoppage time and for Omollo, the final whistle was a personal triumph for him after suffering the axe with Mahakama FC last year.
“Last season it was unfortunate for me and today I’m happy and it is a big achievement for me personally but it is good for the players and management and I’m overjoyed for the effort they have put in.”
The dramatic day was completed at the Hope Centre in Nairobi’s Kawangware where hosts City Stars pulled off their Houdini act from the relegation trap door.
A Francis Thairu brace inspired them to a 4-1 win over Karuturi Sport and sugar millers, Chemelil aided their escape when they held Bandari, who were two points ahead before kick-off to a barren draw.
That means their will be no side from Coast in next season’s campaign.
KPL 2011 SUMMARY
Tusker FC- 58 points
Bandari FC- 31 points
Congo United- 20 Points
Tusker FC- CAF Champions League
Gor Mahia- CAF Confederations Cup
Stephen Waruru- Ulinzi Stars -12
FINAL DAY SCORES
Sofapaka 0-0 Gor Mahia
Thika United 1-1 Western Stima
Tusker 1-0 Congo United
Ulinzi Stars 3-0 Rangers
City Stars 4-1 Karuturi Sports
Sony Sugar 3-1 Mathare United
Chemelil Sugar 0-0 Bandari
KCB 0-0 AFC Leopards
FINAL TABLE 2011
Team P W D L GD Pts
Tusker 30 17 7 6 17 58
Ulinzi Stars 30 16 9 5 18 57
Sofapaka 30 15 7 8 19 52
Gor Mahia 30 12 12 6 5 48
AFC Leopards 29 13 6 10 9 45
Sony Sugar 30 13 5 12 0 44
Rangers 30 11 10 9 2 43
Chemelil Sugar 30 10 11 9 3 41
KCB 29 11 6 12 6 39
Thika United 30 11 6 13 -3 39
Western Stima 30 9 10 11 -7 37
Mathare United 30 7 13 10 -3 34
Karuturi Sports 30 8 10 12 -9 34
Nairobi City Stars 30 8 7 15 -6 31
Bandari 30 9 4 17 -17 31
Congo United 30 5 5 20 -34 20