NAIROBI, May 13 –Thika United failed to trim the gap at the top with champions Gor Mahia after falling 3-2 at home to GOtv Shield champions Sofapaka in a fast-paced Kenyan Premier League encounter on Wednesday.
At Nairobi’s Ruaraka Ground, a late own goal by defender George Owino rescued title-chasing Tusker FC in their 1-1 draw with former champions Mathare United who were sent ahead by Erick Johana.
With no win in two, Sofapaka who have had a slow start to the season found their range at the Thika Sub-County Stadium, were lifted by Burundian Fistol Abdul Razak’s brace to add on Ekaliana Ndolo’s opener in the first-half for what looked to be a comfortable 3-0 lead.
However, Thika who have surprised in becoming the closest challengers to runaway leaders and champions Gor staged an almost improbable comeback from the dead that just fell short.
Kevin Opiyo and Sammy Meja stunned Batoto ba Mungu in the last 10 minutesto leave last season’s runners-up barely hanging on and mightily relieved at the final whistle.
Sofapaka dislodged Ulinzi Stars from sixth on 18 points, one behind Thika who dropped to third to share points with Tusker who climbed to second after rescuing their own pride at the last at their Ruaraka home ground.
The 2009 champions enjoyed the better part of the first-half with Razak tormenting Thika on several occasions before feeding Ndolo for the first goal before scoring himself for a 2-0 lead at the breather.
The Burundi star threatened 11 minutes into the second half when he picked the ball against the run of play but directed his shot to Thika keeper, Levis Omondi’s hands.
Three minutes later he made amends when he swung in a free-kick that was pounced on by Ndolo on the rebound who then slammed the ball past Omondi for his second goal of the season.
The host’s only chance came in the 16th through skipper Dennis Odhiambo’s header but Batoto ba Mungu custodian Evarise Mutuyimana was alert to the danger.
Approaching the half-hour mark, Razak almost doubled the lead when he went one-on-one with Omondi but failed to beat the keeper who came out of his line to deflect the ball out.
Three minutes to the break, Razak’s hard work finally paid off when he tapped in a Mutuyimana long cross for his fourth goal of the campaign.
Thika returned a rejuvinated side with Jackson Macharia dominating the midfield as they launched what was to be a spirited comeback.
Two minute after restart, Macharia set up Kennedy Otieno through on goal with Mutuyimana to beat but the keeper stood tall.
Kepha Aswani wasted two rapid fire chances after Macharia exchanged passes with Otieno to set him up but his last touch was too weak for the first before heading wide from Wycliffe Opondo’s cross.
At the other end, Razak punished the hosts to complete his brace after smashing home Collins Shivachi’s cross from close range.
Opiyo netted what as first appeared to be the consolation when he bullet strike from 30 yards brought the match to 1-3 and with Sofapaka still reeling Meja added the second from a free kick moments later and the fightback was on.