NAIROBI, Kenya, October 6 – To paraphrase the famous words of retired Manchester United legendary boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s squeaky bum time for champions Gor Mahia as the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) breaks for the international fixtures programme.
With wind in their sails following the 4-1 demolition of Nairobi City Stars who are flirting dangerously with relegation, K’Ogalo diehards could argue this was the worst time for the league to go on hiatus with their side needing three wins in four remaining fixtures to hold on to the crown.
Closest challengers Sofapaka dropped two crucial points against Sony Sugar following their 2-2 draw in Awendo on Sunday after recovering from 2-0 down to leave them four adrift of the champions and afford them some breathing space as Gor seek to emulate the side of 1991 which was the last to defend the crown.
With Mathare United (City Stadium), Sofapaka (Machakos Stadium), Muhoroni Youth (Kisumu Stadium) and KRA (City) to come, Gor’s fate is in their hands with three potentially winnable fixtures but head coach Frank Nuttall maintains the title-chase will go down to the wire.
“I’m delighted with the players’ performance, they are focused, follow instructions and execute our game plan. We have a chance to recover during the international break and focus on the next game.
“Dan Sserunkuma is a good striker and very talented but I also thank the rest of the players for helping him score those goals. We take each game as it comes and my focus is on our next game against Mathare. Every game is tough so the league is not yet over,” the Scotsman declared after the Ugandan striker’s hat-trick fired them to the City Stars win.
On the other hand Batoto Ba Mungu will be hoping Gor drop six points whilst they win all their remaining games for them to reclaim the trophy they last lifted five years ago on their debut in the league.
Sofapaka have a steeper mountain to climb in their remaining fixtures against KRA, Gor, AFC Leopards and another title contender Tusker FC but head coach Sam Timbe says they are under no pressure.
“We dropped points in Sony but that is normal in this competition. Sometimes you win other times you lose or draw. We are taking it one match at a time. I know we are in the title chase but we do not want to put pressure on ourselves by talking about whether we will win it or not.
“I just want the players to concentrate on getting maximum points out of the remaining matches. The title will take care of itself,” the Ugandan tactician said.
Many may view the title chase as a two horse race but mathematically Tusker who got a 1-0 win over Mathare, Ulinzi Stars and Chemelil Sugar still in it mathematically.
The Brewers who got their first victory after five winless run, are six points behind the leaders and head coach Francis Kimanzi says the most important thing at this point is to give his charges confidence in their remaining fixtures against Muhoroni, KRA, Thika United and Sofapaka.
“It looked as if there were crisis when we were losing, but when you pull results no matter how you do it, it’s always the best thing. Players need to believe in themselves because they are in a panic mode but if they get that out then I think they can pull more results.
“Now that we are back, we will push aggressively to win all our remaining matches. But that is exactly what every team is hoping to do at this point so we are bracing for a tough games,” the former Harambee Stars tactician stated.
Relegation candidates Nakuru All Stars, City Stars, KCB, Bandari and faded giants Leopards registered mixed results over the weekend but its only Ingwe who collected maximum points to ease pressure of playing in the second tier next season.
However, the 2-0 defeat to Leopards all but sunk All Stars dreams of remaining in the top flight league next season with assistant coach Nick Yakhama saying it will need a miracle to survive.
“Now it’s looking unlikely and what I can say maybe 75 percent we can’t make it but we can try our best. What remains for us now is to finish the fight, to be strong up to the end.”
It’s still difficult to predict between City Stars and KCB who will be relegated but the Bankers who picked a point against Western Stima have a four point advantage over the drop zone.
City Stars who have gone nine matches without a win cannot afford to drop further points in their remaining fixtures against Sony, Muhoroni, All Stars and Mathare as they hope the bankers succumb in their two matches either to Chemelil, Bandari, Sony or All Stars.
City Stars head coach Robinson Ndumbuisi said his side cannot be ruled out although he blamed poor officiating in their 2-0 loss against Gor.
“If this is football we are going nowhere in Kenya this is not officiating, before they scored we were dominating and the same goal he (referee) disallowed us is the same he gave them (Gor).
“Until November 8 we cannot say who won the league or who went on relegation, we still have four games to go and if our opponent is leading on four point we will go and recollect our self and hope it goes our way.
“But if this is how officiating will continue, then football cannot grow. We should stop blaming those who are at the top yet the officiating is below par,” the disappointed Nigerian said in a post match after losing to the champions.