NAIROBI, November 8- Kisumu erupted into ecstatic jubilation as celebrations spread among the Green Army faithful countrywide after Gor Mahia were crowned record 14-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions on a seismic final day of the season on Saturday.
The defending champions crossed the line unchallenged after thrashing Ushuru FC 3-0 at Moi Stadium as closest challengers, Sofapaka’s spirited chase fell just short after being held to a 2-2 draw by 10-man Tusker in Nairobi’s Ruaraka Grounds with the pair heading to the last day only a point apart.
Elsewhere, KPL bade farewell to Nairobi City Stars whose nine year stay in the top flight ended in a limp barren stalemate with Mathare United as KCB nailed their survival with a 3-1 victory over doomed Top Fry Nakuru.
The day however, belonged to K’Ogalo, who weathered immense pressure to inflict a 10th successive defeat on the taxmen at their spiritual home in Kisumu.
Eric Ochieng and talisman Ugandan top scorer Dan Sserunkuma put the champions 2-0 up before the party was officially set-off by an own goal from Richard Mmboi ten minutes from time on the stands that spilled over to the streets after captain Jerim Onyango lifted the trophy with the Green Army chanting Giniwasekaokendo (We’ve won it again).
At Ruaraka, Tusker took the lead through Brian Osumba before the lethal Burundi striker, Abdul Razak Fiston levelled and after Jockins Atudo was sent off, Sofapaka went ahead through Ekaliani Ndolo before a late Jesse Were penalty salvaged the draw for the Brewers.
Playing in high temperatures that rose to 34 degrees Celsius, the champions who needed a win to successfully defend the title, showed intent from early on with George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo being the destroyer-in-chief, having a hand in all three goals.
Head coach Frank Nuttall made one change from the squad that beat Muhoroni Youth 3-1, bringing on Ugandan Israel Emuge in place of suspended influential midfielder Geoffrey Kizito.
His charges got the opener on the stroke of half-time through Ochieng who tucked in on the half-volley after Ushuru defender Douglas Okumu’s poor clearance landed on his feet.
Top scorer Sserunkuma doubled the lead in the 51st minute after taping in Odhiambo’s cross from the right, before Mmboyi put into his own net in the 78th from substitute Simon Mburu’s shot as Nutall’s charges emulated the class of 1991 as the first Gor team to retain the trophy.
The Green Army went into raptures when Amos Wanjala blew the final whistle as overjoyed fans stormed the pitch to join their celebrating heroes, lifting Nuttall above on their shoulders as they drenched the Scotsman with water having led them to glory in his three months probation after succeeding Bobby Williamson in August.
-Sserunkuma wins Golden Boot-
Golden Boot winner Sserunkuma who netted 16 goals for the season was also hoisted shoulder high for a lap of honour before former Prime Minister and club patron Raila Odinga handed over the trophy to captain Jerim Onyango.
Having missed the Golden Boot award by a whisker in 2012 that was won by Sofapaka veteran John Baraza by a goal, Sserunkuma who bagged the Player of the Year in 2012 finally added his name to the roll of top scorers.
Sofapaka’s Enock Agwanda and Ulinzi Stars’ veteran Stephen Waruru finished runner-ups on 11 apiece while in form midfielder Ekaliana Ndolo came third on nine.
-AFC Leopards in Top 8-
As K’Ogalo celebrated their record 14th title, bitter rivals AFC Leopards qualified for next year’s KPL top-Eight tournament after a hard-fought 3-2 victory over hosts Bandari in Mombasa.
Ingwe who are sixth on 41 points pending the verdict of their postponed controversial match Sony Sugar, bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Sofapaka with veteran midfielder Charles Okwemba opening the scoring before Sharif Mohammed scored an own goal to double the scores.
Midfielder Humphrey Mieno sealed the victory for Leopards while Jimmy Bagaye converted two penalties for the Dockers who finished 13th.
Leopards were joined by Muhoroni Youth who edged out Western Stima 2-0 to make the Top-eight for the first time while Thika United on 39 points are through as it stands, pending the ruling of Sony versus Leopards tie.
Despite losing by a solitary goal to Ulinzi Stars, the Sugar Millers who are on 38, a point below the cut mark and could supplant Thika if the decision goes their way.
-City Stars relegated-
Nairobi City Stars’ nine year KPL reign came to an end after their relegation to the second tier was confirmed on the final day to join newcomers Nakuru All Stars who were doomed earlier.
The Kawangware based side were held to a goalless draw by visiting Mathare United at their Nairobi’s World Hope Centre as KCB who were virtually guaranteed of safety, won to rubber stamp their top flight status on final day.
The Bankers finished on a high after beating relegated All Stars 3-2 to finish 14th on 29.
K’Ogalo who equalled their last season’s tally of 60, will now represent the country at next year’s CAF Champions League while Sofapaka have to beate Super League side Posta Ranger in the GOtv Shield domestic cup final to enter the Confederations Cup.