NAIROBI, June 1 – Harun Shakava and Ali Abondo gave Gor Mahia a perfect Madaraka Day as the champions restored their nine-point lead at the peak of the Kenyan Premier League by overcoming Thika United 2-0 in an entertaining encounter played at Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani on Monday.
Elsewhere, AFC Leopards rallied from a goal down to force a 1-1 draw with Mathare United at Nairobi City Stadium while visitors Bandari held Ushuru to a goalless draw in the early kick-off at the same venue.
Its 14 games and counting for unbeaten Gor after Thika became the latest side to fall to the champions after Shakava gave Gor the lead in the 32nd minute before Abondo sealed victory in the 81st with a splendid free-kick to take their tally to 36 points.
K’Ogalo who are on course to finish the first-leg without defeat with next weekend’s clash with Tusker FC completing their mid season fixtures, threatened early through Abondo but he blasted wide from a Meddie Kagere pass with only keeper Levis Opiyo to beat.
Then Kagere failed to utilize Opiyo’s blunder after the keeper raced off his line by blazing off-target from Godfrey Walusimbi’s cross before the keeper made amends to deny the Ugandan moments later.
Jackson Macharia thought he had broken the deadlock in the 25th when he chipped over Gor keeper Boniface Oluoch who had spilled Kennedy Otieno’s shot only for the linesman to controversially raise the flag up for offside.
Shakava made the difference seven minutes later when he rose highest to head home a Karim Nzigiyimana cross at the far left post.
Gor nearly doubled the lead but Vincent Nyaberi did well to clear off the line after heading away Kagere’s cross that had beaten Opiyo.
Thika’s defence was put to the task in the second-half with Collins Okumu blocking Olunga’s shot before Opiyo saved a cracker from Abondo.
Okumu escaped a red card after a high boot tackle on Olunga somehow went unpunished before Kagere scored only to be ruled offside in another dodgy decision.
Undeterred, Gor pressed on and Abondo killed the tie as a contest when he bent in a free-kick from wide left that arched past the wall and beat Opiyo at the near post, with the Thika keeper’s positioning at fault.
Abondo took his personal tally to nine for the season to assume the solo lead at the top of the scoring charts with teammate Kagere and Leopards’ Jacob Keli tied for eight behind him.
Both goal scorers were drafted to Bobby Williamson’s Harambee Stars preliminary squad for their 2017 AFCON qualifier away to Cape Verde and did their chances of inclusion in the final team a huge boost.
-Leopards drop points-
Khalid Jumaan came off the bench to help Leopards pick a point after scoring in the 72nd minute to cancel out Whyvonne Isuza’s opener in the 38th.
With both sides seeking to bounce back from defeats, Zdravko Logarusic made two changes from the squad that lost 2-0 to Western Stima; bringing on Timonah Wanyonyi and Lamin Diallo for injured Keli and Michael Khamati.
After 12 minutes of play, Ingwe made their intentions known with Mathare keeper Peter Odhiambo pulling a fantastic save when he parried over a powerful header from Diallo after Noah Wafula left defender George Owino for dead before setting up his teammate.
Leopards’ custodian, Wycliffe Kasaya almost gifted Mathare the lead in the 23rd after thinking Robinson Kamura’s set piece at the edge of the 18-yard box had gone out of play only to see the deflected free-kick hit the left side of the post before Abdalla Juma cleared the danger for a fruitless corner.
At the other end, Owino cleared a Wanyonyi cross off the line with Odhiambo well beaten with Wafula waiting for the tap in.
A good build up from the midfield by Noah Abich paid off for Mathare in the 38th with Isuza exchanging neat passes with Roy Ssyamba before the striker received the ball back and outmuscled Musa Mudde to put a low shot past Kasaya.
Logarusic withdrew Fred Ndaaka for Ezekiel Seda five minutes to the break but still could not find the equaliser.
Leopards pilled on the pressure in the second half with Diallo testing Odhiambo with a thunderbolt from Wafula’s pass but the keeper was in the right position rescue the danger.
The Croatian introduced Karim Ndungwa for Diallo as Jumaan came in for Abdallah Juma before Kasaya punched over Edwin Ombasa’s fierce shot.
They got due reward six minutes later when Jumaan found space past Owino to unleash a long range shot that beat Odhiambo for the leveller.
The goal motivated Leopards who took control of the game thereafter but Odhiambo denied Jumaan and Wafula as the former champions settled.
Ingwe rose to sixth with 22 with Mathare ninth on 19.