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Lucky Gor savour Top 8 bliss

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 19- Rama Salim and Itubu Imbem netted in extra-time to sink dogged Ulinzi Stars as Gor Mahia lifted their maiden Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Top 8 title on Sunday.

The ousted champions have themselves to blame for failing to score from the match they dominated with a first half penalty miss the most glaring of the opportunities they missed in a lively encounter.

In the end K’Ogalo’s Croat coach Zdravko Logarusic celebrated his first silverware as his side hit the Sh1m jackpot for the winner takes all knock-out tournament during the final played at Nairobi’s Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

“We worked hard but they gave us a good game. This means we are now dangerous from the pitch and also on the bench but there is still room for more improvement,” Logarusic stated before the trophy was handed to Gor after the final.

Both sides failed to find the breakthrough in regulation time and three minutes into the added period, midfielder Salim headed Gor to the lead with a contested goal before Imbem well taken strike finally barracked the military men in the second half of extra time.

Ulinzi showed their intent of retaining the trophy early on when Wycliffe Ochomo lashed a powerful shot from the right in the eighth minute but it was calmly stopped by Jerry Onyango in the Gor goal at the near post.

Salim and in form striker Dan Sserenkuma got a foothold in the game for K’Ogalo but the soldiers elected to catch them in the offside trap which the former snapped in the 14th minute as he raced to a through ball and rounded Jacktone Odhiambo in the Ulinzi goal but defender James Mulinge was at hand to clear his delivery to the forward.

Ulinzi then missed a glorious chance to go ahead and probably win the match in the game of premium opportunities when Anthony Nderitu saw his 37th minute spot-kick for an Ivan Anguyo handball in the box repelled by Odhiambo.

The vociferous ‘Green Army’ of Gor supporters went into raptures but Ulinzi pressed on and again spurned another scoring chance in first half stoppage time after Moses Odhiambo had brought down Evans Amuoka just outside the area.

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Kevin Amwayi’s curling free kick was saved by Onyango as the two sides went into the break with a barren score line.

The second half started on a high with Ulinzi’s Geoffrey Kokoyo making Onyango earn his corn with a strong header in the 50th that was brushed over the bar the inspired keeper for a corner and soon after he was at it again to deny Ochomo at the near post.

Logarusic threw in Edwin Lavatsa to the fray for Victor Ali and the substitute was instrumental in pegging back the marauding soldiers and almost stole the headlines in the 88th minutes when he tried to chip Odhiambo who was off his line but his effort went out for a corner.

A minute to the final whistle of normal time, Salim escaped his markers and forced the Ulinzi keeper to action to keep out his low shot as referee Nasoor Ndoka whistled for full-time shortly after.

Three minutes into extra time, Gor took the lead in controversial fashion when Salim arrived to head in from a corner after Odhiambo spilled the initial delivery but replays suggested Ulinzi’s Lawrence Owino had cleared the ball off the line.

Ndoka was unmoved by the vehement protests from the soldiers as he pointed to the centre circle with Gor jubilantly celebrating the ref’s call.

The outcome deflated Ulinzi and a lapse in concentration in the 114th saw Imbem slot the ball past a charging Odhiambo after his backline stopped playing shortly after Salim who they deemed offside had picked the ball from Lavatsa having exchanged passes with the striker from midfield.

“Our expectations were to retain the title; we played well, created many chances but couldn’t score. They deserve the win since they created fewer chances but found the net to become champions,” lamented a dejected Simiyu after the match.

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