NAIROBI, Kenya, April 13 – Sofapaka stunned league leaders Tusker FC 4-2 to end Francis Kimanzi’s eight match unbeaten run as champions Gor Mahia came from behind to neutralise hosts Ulinzi Stars 2-1 and move up to second in crucial Kenyan Premier League (KPL) matches featuring the last four titleholders on Sunday.
At Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos, it was swift cold revenge for Batoto Ba Mungu who left the Brewers, who eliminated them 6-5 on post-match penalties in the KPL Top 8 quarter-finals a week ago, flat in a six-goal blitz where Dan Kago stole the headlines with a clinical hat-trick for the 2009 champions.
In Nakuru, Gor averted further inquest into their title defence capabilities when the resurgent Rama Salim cancelled out an Eric Apul early opener for the soldiers who took the honours in 2010 before Harambee Stars defender, David ‘Calabar’ Otieno netted the decider with the three goals coming in the first half.
Kago netted his treble against the 2011 and 12 champions in the 6th, 12th and 60th minutes before Enoch Agwanda stretched the advantage in the 80th while defender Lloyd Wahome notched a brace in the 70th and 81st for Tusker in reply as the winners moved to third on 16 points, two behind the vanquished Brewers.
The hat-trick hero gratefully struck the opener when he powered home John Baraza’s rebound after keeper Samuel Odhiambo spilled the 2009 KPL player of the Year’s shot to his path.
It took Kago a further six minutes to notch his brace after receiving a cross from Agwanda to calmly place the ball beyond Odhiambo’s reach as Sofapaka went in for half time 2-0 to the good.
Their Ugandan head coach Sam Timbe introduced Clifton Miheso for Patrick Kagogo in the second period and the former Thika United forward made a telling first contribution with an assist to Kago to complete his hat-trick on the hour mark.
Five minutes later, Wahome pulled one back, heading home Osborne Monday’s cross before the former Mathare United claimed his double after connecting an Athman Buki’s rebound to beat keeper Barnabas Tiema.
Sofapaka had the last laugh when Agwanda picked a pass from Mieno to hammer home five minutes to full time to register his fourth goal as the early pacesetters came unstuck in spectacular fashion in the first severe jolt to the Francis Kimanzi-led side’s title ambitions.
At Afraha Stadium, the Green Army who populated Nakuru by the busload were reduced to silence when Apul put Ulinzi ahead in the 25th but in Salim, they have a player reborn as he brought them level 11 minutes later before Owino put them ahead for good as K’Ogalo reduced the gap at the top to a solitary point.
Bobby Williamson made only one change, starting with David Juma in goal in place of captain Jerim Onyango but sat back as the military men dominated initial proceedings, Enoch Mogire coming close to open the scores after six minutes but his effort hit the post and Musa Mohammed to cleared the danger.
Salim could have broke the deadlock in the 23rd when Geoffrey Kizito’s free-kick found him unmarked in the box only for the former Congo United forward to head wide and two minutes later Apul capitalised K’Ogalo’s defensive frailties to slot home from a tight left angle for his first goal of the season.
In the 31st, Robert Matano’s charges who had their tails up, could have doubled their lead when Oliver Ruto brought in a cross but Kevin Amwayi’s planted the ball wide when he was presented with a free header.
Against the run of play, Salim leveled five minutes later after Uganda Cranes forward, Dan Sserunkuma, sent him through with a long range pass that left him with the easy task of tapping home from close range past keeper Francis Ochieng for his second successive goal.
On the stroke of half-time, the visitors turned the game on its head through their stand in captain Owino who connected home after Ochieng spilled Haron Shakava’s powerful header for 2-1 at halftime.
Heavy downpour slackened the pace in the second half of the televised tie but the military side had a chance to restore parity in the 77th when Owino missed Mogire’s shot only for Amwayi to blast over with only Juma to beat.
“The boys worked and fought hard and thankfully, we picked the three points. In the first half we showed a lot of integrity and effort when we conceded the first goal and came back to lead into half time, that was very important.
“The second half was a joke since we failed to pass the ball but it was okay because in the last 15 minutes we were exhausted but the boys had to dig deep and held on for the win. I’m happy for that,” Williamson offered after the match.
Ulinzi coach Robert Matano who registered his first loss since he was appointed last month, laid on his troops for conceding easy goals that ultimately denied them reward.
“We lost the match but we tried to fight back in the second half but we lost concentration in midfield that cost us. I’m working so hard to unite the team since I found it divided lacking cohesion. We are trying to do some technical organisation and I hope in mid-season we will do a few changes but for now I will work with what I have.
“Gor is in top form so I lost to a better side but we will still win matches since this is not the end of the road for my side. We are looking forward to rectify our mistakes,” the former Tusker, AFC Leopards and Sofapaka tactician observed.
Victory in what was a potential banana skin for the champions went a long way to quash talk of unease in their camp due to the cash crunch brought by lack of a sponsor that saw the players not receive their full dues for March with the administration buying more time to shop around for a successor to Brookeside Dairies who jumped ship at the end of last month without the added pressure from their passionate demanding fans.
Elsewhere, Sony Sugar were forced to come one goal down to salvage a point after battling to a 1-1 draw with Thika United at their Awendo Green Stadium backyard.
Bernard Meki, put the visitors ahead in the 29th before Naftali Okombo equalised in the 58th to see Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno’s side drop down to eighth on 13 points in what is developing to be a closely fought opening to the season.
The last fixture of the weekend saw Muhoroni Youth beat Western Stima 1-0 and climb sixth on the log on 14 as Francis Baraza turned the tables on the side that made him the first coaching casualty of the campaign.
Skipper Abbas Akinyemi, scored the lone goal in 60th through a spot-kick.