NAIROBI, Kenya, December 22 – The taxman has been let loose on the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) after KRA earned promotion to the top flight at the expense of the seasoned Posta Rangers whose own dream of a swift return were buried in a marathon penalty shoot-out on Saturday.
A 6-4 tense victory on post-match penalties at Nyayo National Stadium against the side that went down from the KPL the season before last was the culmination of many years bubbling on the surface of promotion in the past few years for the taxmen who are coached by former AFC Leopards and Stars keeper, Ken Kenyatta.
In mirroring their recent flirtation with the top-flight, KRA had to come from 2-0 down, dead and buried, to force a 2-2 draw in regulation time to force the lottery of spot-kicks. And unlike last season when Bandari beat them to the punch at the very end, this time, lady luck was on their side.
“I’m very happy for the win since I have been looking for this promotion to the Premier League for a long time. Last year I missed it in the last minute, but I thank God my boys listened to my instructions in the second half where I told them to keep the ball and that enabled us emerge victorious.
“I will retain my players because to come up with a new team needs a lot of coaching, even though we will drop some as we look to bring in experienced players ahead of the new season where our intention is to win it because we are the best,” Kenyatta said after the pulsating encounter.
The KPL newbies will bring one of the best oiled side in the top flight, with an annual budget said to be anything between Sh15 to Sh30m per year and with addition to the monies accruing from the broadcast deal with SuperSport, KRA look equipped to cement their place in the KPL after a number of close shaves.
They will seek to employ the model of Bandari, who after being demoted in 2011, bounced back last year and went on to secure a sixth finish, their highest in their history, on the back of sound financial footing, shrewd purchases and cohesion among management and the playing unit.
The taxmen will be joined by another debutant, Top Fry All Stars FC who stunned another side seeking a swift return to the KPL, former champions Oserian, who were seen off by Wilson Andati’s lone goal in the 28th minute.
Top Fry bring the X-factor to the competition since their rapid rise through the divisions mirror that of Kakamega Homeboyz who sadly, found the top-flight a step too far for their meteoric progression and swiftly made the return back to Division 1 with lack of financial might for the individual-sponsored outfit being one of their biggest undoing.
“This year the journey has been tough, we struggled financially, but team work and good preparation which we made during pre-season is what has paid us.
“My team has given me morale by winning the Western Region Division 1 title, and being my first time to play in KPL, I’m telling the senior coaches in the league that we are not going to participate but we are coming to compete,” All Stars coach Peter Okidi stated after the match.
In the second match, Rangers who had a better experienced side, with the likes of former Kenyan international Pascal Ochieng, former Mathare United and Sofapaka midfielder, Joseph Nyaga and former AFC Leopards custodian Lawrence Webo, dominated the first half.
With three minutes of play, Edwin Mwaura brought in a cross in the box that found no one to slot home. KRA responded quickly when Evans Kiwanuka headed a corner wide.
Rangers who are coached by former Harambee Stars assistant tactician, Leonard Saleh, continued to terrify KRA’s defense, where Nyaga combined well with former AFC Leopards forward Victor Ochieng.
The efforts paid in the 20th, when Oscar Olwith looped the ball over keeper Philip Odhiambo to score the opener for Rangers.
The taxmen’s back four failed to hold on the Rangers strikers, forcing Collins Omondi to foul the scorer in the 31st. Referee Davis Omweno waved for free-kick and with KRA’s defense still at sea, Mwaura set-up Fredrick Ajwang who unleashed a cracker that beat Odhiambo all ends up to double for Rangers.
Three minutes later, Ochieng had a chance to extend the lead but Odhiambo denied him, punching the ball for a fruitless corner, as Rangers enjoyed a 2-0 lead into the breather.
KRA emerged for the second period a rejuvenated side with Ahmed Mohammed winning a 20 yard free-kick, but he blasted his shot wide.
Seven minutes later, Hassan Mohammed, could have pulled one back with a well taken strike that went straight into Webo’s arms.
Former Nairobi City Stars forward, Collins Tiego, came off the bench to tap home for KRA in the 61st, after receiving a pass from Ahmed to halve the deficit.
With wind in their sails, KRA poured forward and ten minutes later Hassan equalized after his intended cross from the left fooled Webo and rested on the net forcing the tie head to spot-kicks.
Odhiambo saved Olwith and Jacob Opere’s penalties as Hassan, Geoffrey Kataka, Richard Mmboyi, Roy Otieno and Michael Macharia converted theirs for KRA.
Pascal, Ajwang, Mbugi Joseph and Ian Otieno scored for Rangers.
In first game, Top Fry All Stars dominated the entire match, with Bikhayi Kizito missing a chance as he blasted his free-kick wide.
Wilson Andati could have separated the sides in the in the 15th with his shot that keeper George Ochieng denied him.