NAIROBI, Kenya, October 26 – The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title race was kept alive after champions Gor Mahia lost 3-2 to closest challengers Sofapaka in an ill-tempered clash at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
Police had to fire tear gas canisters to quell rowdy fans at the jam-packed stadium with the match stopped for five minutes after Sofapaka keeper David Okello was struck by a missile before order was restored and the tense game resumed in a week where crowd trouble dominated Kenyan football.
Burundian international Fiston Abdul Razak was the hero with a brace with Ekaliani Ndolo adding what proved to be the winner with Geoffrey Kizito and an Eugene Asike own goal replying for the champions as Sofapaka moved to within a point of K’Ogalo with two games to go.
However, the champions will hold on to the crown next weekend if they beat Muhoroni Youth and Sofapaka lose to arch rivals AFC Leopards.
Any other set of outcomes will set up a thrilling final day decider with K’Ogalo taking on Ushuru FC as Batoto Ba Mungu clash with outside title challengers, Tusker FC.
It was the first defeat for Frank Nuttall at the helm of Gor Mahia since he took charge in August.
“We started well but overall Sofapaka deserved to win. I tried to get back on the game in the second-half when I made changes and we did well to pull one back.
“They utilized their chances well and we did a few mistakes in defence that we could have avoided but we have two matches remaining and anything can happen to all the teams,” the disappointed Scot said after the loss.
His opposite number Sam Timbe, hailed his charges but urged K’Ogalo fans that filled the 5,000 –seater stadium to its seams to accept the results following the altercations that forced the stoppage in the last ten minutes of the game.
“We had a good game but panicked and that’s why we conceded the own goal but we settled and got into the game.
“Fans should accept the three results in a game of football, if they win they should be happy if they draw be sad but if they lose they should go back to the drawing board because we are heading to a crucial stage and Gor is not out, they are ahead of us,” the Ugandan underscored in his post-match comments.
Sofapaka, fresh from eliminating AFC Leopards at the GOtv Shield semis proved to be too strong to Gor who made one change in Kevin Oluoch coming in for Musa Mohammed at the back.
The hosts started on a sour note when Asike turned the ball to his own net as early as the second minute with his poor back pass to keeper David Okello who had come off his line to gift Gor the opener.
Sofapaka dusted themselves and lay siege on Gor’s goal and got their reward on 15 minutes when man-of-the-match Razak smashed home beyond K’Ogalo keeper Jerim Onyango after controlling a long ball with his chest from a John Njoroge long ball for the equaliser.
Razak missed a chance to get his second and put his side ahead when he went for a low header instead of shooting at goal from Enoch Agwanda’s inviting cross.
Collins Shivachi rescued the hosts at the half hour mark when he cleared after Godfrey Walusimbi missed to connect with George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo’s dangerous cross as both sides went locked 1-1 at the break.
Sofapaka upped their game when they returned and after squandering several open chances, danger man Razak rose to the occasion after heading home from Agwanda’s throw in on the 53rd for his double.
With Gor chasing the game, Razak blasted wide nine minutes later as he went for his treble before inform midfielder Ndolo put further daylight with the third in the 74th after looping the ball over Onyango for his eighth for the season.
Ugandan Geoffrey Kizito pulled one back in the 83rd, tucking in a rebound after Dan Sserunkuma’s header came back from the post to set up a grand stand finish but Sofapaka held on for victory.
Earlier at the same venue, visiting Sony Sugar held Mathare United to a 1-1 draw and sit seventh on 37 points but with a game at hand.
Edwin Ombasa sent Mathare ahead with a spectacular goal after picking a pass from Wyvonne Isuza in the ninth minute but Marwa Chamberi who had missed a number of chances cancelled the lead from the spot after Robinson Kamura handled the ball in the box.
Mathare who are 11th on 34 still have a chance of finishing top eight.
Leopards end Chemelil hoodoo
In Kisumu, Leopards put aside their off the field problems to beat Chemelil Sugar 1-0 in a match that saw Ingwe play behind closed doors after Football Kenya Federation banned their fans who caused trouble in their GOtv Shield semi-final against Sofapaka.
Michael Khamati came off the bench to score the winner in the last minute of regulation time and lift Leopards who have a game at hand to sixth on 38 while the Sugar Millers remained fifth on 44 as they beat the cane cutters for the first time in a decade in the league.
Elsewhere, KCB inched closer to safety after rallying from a goal down to salvage a point against 10-man Bandari in a tie that ended 1-1 in Mombasa.
Former Nairobi City Stars forward Brunno Sserunkuma struck first in the 24th before John Odhiambo levelled from the spot to see the Bankers just need three points from their remaining two games to avoid the chop.