NAIROBI, Kenya, April 6- Tusker captain and keeper Samuel Odhiambo, rescued Eugine Asike’s sudden death spot-kick to help the defending champions sail through to the Kenyan premier League (KPL) Top 8 semi-final after a hard fought 6-5 win on post-match penalties over Sofapaka on Sunday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
Both sides were locked one-all in regulation time with Batoto Ba Mungu opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time through Humphrey Mieno before Kevin Kimani converted a penalty in the 69th to level.
Sofapaka had a chance to seal the match in regulation time but Kasolo Mustapha squandered chances that could have put them 3-0 up before the equaliser.
Both skippers had to rescue their charges in added time with Odhiambo, stepping in first to clear the danger in the box before his opposite number Felly Mulumba, did the same to force referee Davis Omweno to blow for full-time and invite spot-kicks.
The Brewers converted all their efforts through Odhiambo, Ismael Dunga, Brian Osumba, Kimani, Jesse Were and Jockins Atudo while Mulumba, Clifton Miheso, Mieno, Anthony Ekaliani and John Baraza scored for Sofapaka before Asike missed his.
“The match was difficult since it was a knock out. We played cautiously because we had to rest some players for Wednesday’s league match so balancing the squad was not easy and that added weight to the game.
“There is a negative part of coming one goal down since we usually concede first forcing us to compose ourselves and build the mentality once again. This is risky since it lowers our concentration something that we will work out on. I’m happy to reach the semis and my intention is to defend the title,” Tusker coach and former Harambee Stars tactician, Francis Kimanzi, told after the match.
On his part Sofapaka coach Sam Timbe, said they could have won the match in regulation time but blamed the referee for awarding his opponents the penalty alleging it was not genuine.
“We should have won the game in 90 minutes but we defended instead of continuing to attack and that cost us, but football is like that we failed to execute and Tuker woke up to take the day.
“We will work hard so that we can finish top- eight and compete next year but for now our attention shifts to the league and GOtv Shield,” the Ugandan said.
Batoto Ba Mungu were first to threaten with only six minutes of play when Kosolo found Enock Agwanda in the box who hit the side post.
The Brewers responded five minutes later with Were providing for Clifford Alwanga who unleashed a cracker in the box but keeper Barnabas Tiema rescued the danger.
Alwanga could have given Kimanzi the opener in the 14th when he beat defender Collins Shivachi from the left flank but once again he was denied by Tiema who punched for a corner that forced the former AFC Leopards custodian to clear Lloyd Wahome’s shot.
Six minute later Kasolo had a chance to break the deadlock through a counter attack in the right wing with Odhiambo to beat but he directed his strike direct to the custodian.
In the 20th Alwanga passed the ball to Were who was too slow for Tiema to slide on the ball as last year’s KPL top scorer runners up pleaded for a penalty but Omweno awarded the foul to the goalkeeper.
Sofapaka continued to pile pressure on Tusker’s defence with John Njoroge bringing in a cross in the 40th to force Wahome head out for a corner that saw Odhiambo recue Clifton Miheso’s header.
On the stroke of half-time, Sofapaka could attack with Agwanda providing a cross from the right wing but Kasolo failed to head home in the 44th.
A minute later, their efforts paid off when Mieno capitalized on Wahome’s poor clearance on Njoroge’s cross to notch the opener and give Timbe 1-0 lead to the break.
Tusker entered the last half attacking looking for the equaliser with Andrew Tololwa attempting to beat Tiema with his left foot shot but the Sofapaka keeper was on the right position to handle the threat.
Batoto Ba Mungu could have doubled in the 54th when Njoroge found Kasolo who was left with Wahome to beat but he once again hewasted the chance as the defender shielded the ball for a goal kick forcing Timbe to substitute him for Elli Asieche.
Substitute Joshua Oyoo could have levelled five minutes later but Tiema saved the danger to keep his charges on the lead.
Kimani restored parity for the Brewers through a spot-kick in the 69th when Asieche infringed Alwanga in the box who was ready to connect Were’s cross, forcing Omweno to wave at the spot and the2011 KPL player of the year stepped in to convert and bring back his charges to the game.
Both skippers had to clear danger in their territory in the added time with Tusker surviving first when Odhiambo stepped in first before Sofapaka’s Mulumba cleared Were’s cross in the added time to force the match to penalties.
Both teams converted all their normal five kicks but it was Odhiambo who stood out after rescuing Asike’s sudden death penalty to see the defending champions join AFC Leopards in the two-legged semi-finals.