NAIROBI, September 13 – Champions Gor Mahia are a point away from officially retaining the SportPesa Premier League title, after playing to a barren draw with Ulinzi Stars who delayed their coronation at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium on Sunday.
In the early kick-off at the same venue, Boniface Akenga grabbed a hat-trick while Bebetto Lnamba notched a brace as relegation threatened Nakuru All Stars trounced KCB 5-2.
The eagerly anticipated top of the table clash saw K’Ogalo move to 63 points, 12 ahead of Ulinzi and with five matches to go.
Mathematically, if a miracle occurs, the Soldiers can topple the leaders if they win their remaining matches with Gor losing theirs with cricket scorelines to overhaul their commanding +26 goal difference gap between them.
Despite the disappointment, Gor head coach, Frank Nuttall is positive of wrapping their record 15th crown when they host Sony Sugar on Wednesday at Nairobi City Stadium.
“We matched anything Ulinzi threw upon us. It was a physical game but we were capable of handling it. It’s obvious it was going to be a difficult game for both sides who were trying to win.
“I feel my boys played well today, they were mentally focused and very determined. I was happy with them. Wednesday is another opportunity for us to try and get three points,” the Scotsman who did not make any substitution, said after the tensed match.
His opposite number, Robert Matano who in the pre-match interview vowed to put Gor’s champagne in the ice, was content with the result.
“It was a fair result because both sides didn’t create chances so the game was even and we appreciate what we got. I’m happy with my defence they stuck to my instructions because our aim was to deny their forward Michael Olunga a chance since he is a good finisher.
“We contained them especially their full backs. We are now focusing on the next match against Chemelil Sugar,” Matano who is popularly referred as the ‘Lion’ stated.
The Green Army packed the 5000 capacity stadium to its seams besides invading the flood light pylon, roof stands and adjacent trees but their initial bubbling mood was soon subdued by the physical encounter with both sides resulting to long balls.
Nuttall was forced to make three adjustments to his squad after having most of his first XI away on international duty where left back, Abuoba Sibomana picked injury while representing Rwanda.
Ugandan Godfrey Walusimbi reverted to his defensive position while Eric Ochieng replaced Collins Okoth in midfield as Ali Abondo was elevated to the starting line-up for Enoch Agwanda.
Unbeaten K’Ogalo got off brightly; pressing Ulinzi but both sides failed to create opportunities as the champions dominated early proceedings with Meddie Kagere and Olunga keeping the hosts’ back line busy.
However, Olunga who was coming from the back of netting his first Harambee Stars goals in their 2-1 loss to Zambia in 2017 AFCON qualifiers last Sunday, was man marked by Ulinzi defender, Mohammed Hassan.
Ali Abondo tested keeper, Francis Ochieng at the quarter hour mark with a well curved set piece that the former national team custodian parried away in the only shot on target in the cagey opening half.
Neither of the two could not change their tactics as the hard tackles continued even after Matano introduced his top scorer, John Makwata for Enos Ochieng.
The visitors managed to break through from the left in the 68th minute but Innocent Wafula blazed over the bar after Ochieng did well to come off his line to deny Kagere.
Kevin Amwayi threatened from a counter attack for the Military side but K’Ogalo skipper, Musa Mohammed recovered to clear the danger.
Amwayi was withdrawn for Ezekiel Otuoma but that did not stop Gor from attacking as they found momentum in the dying minutes.
A good build up from the left by Kagere could have resulted to the moment the Green Army were waiting for but Uganda Cranes midfielder, Khalid Aucho, fluffed the chance after Olunga set him up.