NAIROBI, Kenya, November 3 – The stage is set for a grandstand finish to the 2014 Kenyan Premier League season after champions Gor Mahia and closest challengers Sofapaka failed to blink last weekend pushing the title race to the final day.
After 29 rounds, two horses remain in the battle after Tusker FC, the third contender, ceded the crown after being held by Thika United 2-2 on Sunday, 24 hours after Gor and Sofapaka, who are a point apart on top the standings, won.
Frank Nuttall charges who are chasing a record 14th domestic top flight title bounced back from a stinging 3-2 defeat to Sofapaka to hit Muhoroni Youth 3-1 in Kisumu but it was not enough to hold on to the crown after Batoto Ba Mungu sunk AFC Leopards 2-1 in Mumias.
For K’Ogalo, it’s 2012 all over again when they went in for the final weekend holding a two- point lead over Tusker before imploding at their Nairobi City Stadium when they were held 1-1 by Thika as Tusker thumped Nairobi City Stars 2-0 to pick-pocket the title.
Emotional scenes of grown men sobbing uncontrollably, others walking in a trance, others wailing and a dejected group of players in various stages of disconsolation from the Gor camp filled mainstream and social media as the Green Army mourned the final day calamity that befell them.
The class of 2014 is keen to avoid De Javu on Saturday when they take on Ushuru FC as they aim to enter K’Ogalo’s history books as the first team since the squad of 1991 to hold on to the title.
“After celebrating the Muhoroni win, we will turn our attention to our final game where all our focus is. The boys are playing good football and hope they can continue with the same tempo in our final match against Ushuru FC and get the job they started well done,” Nuttall said.
However, dark clouds loom over the champions with questions on whether they can withstand the pressure having failed to win their final day fixtures in the past five seasons, the calamitous draw with Thika being followed by a 2-0 defeat to KCB on their coronation last season as titleholders for the first time in 18 years.
Their defeat to Sofapaka when a draw could have served their quest perfectly having been presented a lead through an own goal a fortnight ago was another tacit reminder of Gor’s susceptibility to buckle under pressure although playing Muhoroni, a side they have not lost to in four years and Ushuru who have fallen to nine successive defeats in their last two games is the kindest finish they would have asked.
On the other hand, Sofapaka have wind in their sails disproving many by mowing the two giants of Kenyan football, Gor and AFC in successive games with the third force, Tusker awaiting them on Saturday to complete the most difficult end to a campaign that could yet end in glory.
Enock Agwanda’s brace over Ingwe also put his side in a good position to clinch the domestic double with the GOtv Shield final against Super League side Posta Rangers still to come.
-Battle for top-eight-finish-
The scramble to finish among the top eight will also be intriguing with Leopards, Sony Sugar, Thika, Mathare United, Muhoroni and Western Stima fighting to book a slot for next season’s KPL Top 8 knock-out edition where Sh1m is at stake.
Ingwe and Sony have an upper hand in the contest with their controversial postponed match yet set to be replayed on Wednesday where a win for either will wrap their Top 8 status.
Former champions Mathare roared back to contention to sit just outside with a 2-0 win over Western Stima and victory over all but doomed Nairobi City Stars will place them in prime position to capitalise should their rivals falter.
-KCB on the blink of survival-
KCB who have had a rough season are virtually safe after holding Sony to a barren draw and leaving Nairobi City Stars’ chances of survival hanging by a strand of human hair despite the Kawangware based side beating relegated Nakuru All Stars 1-0.
The bankers who are 14th and three points above City Stars boast of a healthy goal difference margin of seven and it will take an unlikely eight goal swing in favour City Stars who have escaped relegation on the final day in the past three seasons to go down.