MOMBASA, March 30- Ulinzi Stars ensured their unbeaten run remained intact after salvaging a point away to GOtv Shield champions Bandari after settling for a 1-1 draw at the Mbaraki Complex on Wednesday.
It was a high tempo game played under the sweltering heat of the coast in which either side would have walked away with maximum points.
Shabaan Kenga equalized for Bandari at the stroke of half time after youngster Cliff Kasuti had put Ulinzi ahead with a 10th minute goal.
“It was a tough match and for us getting a point is good. I am happy having scored my first goal for Ulinzi and hopefully I can build on from these results,” Kasuti, signed last year from the Kenya Secondary School ball games told Capital Sport after the match.
Bandari coach Twahir Muhiddin was disappointed by dropping points at home for the first time this season and he heaped blame on his striking force which lost many scoring opportunities.
“It is high time that our forwards wake up because these chances that we are losing will come to haunt us soon. Today we dropped two points because this is a match we should have won, especially looking that at some point our opponents were drained by the weather conditions,” Muhiddin said.
Ulinzi’s pace died after the half hour mark after being affected by the hot conditions that saw temperatures soaring towards 35 degrees.
Just as has been their tradition, Ulinzi started with bullet pace, Kevin Amwayi on the left and Kasuti on the right doing much of the donkey work.
It was Kasuti who opened the scores when he tapped home in the 10th minute after Bandari keeper Wilson Obungu failed to put a stronger arm from Mark Bikokwa’s cross to see the ball fall graciously on the 18-year old, who easily slammed home into an empty net.
Bikokwa had a superb opportunity to double the lead two minutes later, but he failed to beat Obungu on a one-on-one after racing into the box from the halfway line.
The hosts started building on and Kenga was the chief destroyer, also using his pace on either wing to attempt and destabilize an Ulinzi defense that had only conceded once before this match.
Ugandan forward George Abege had an opportunity after being picked up by Bernard Mang’oli with a chipped pass between the Ulinzi central defense but his first touch was heavy, allowing keeper James Saruni to race off his line and pick up.
Kenga ensured the two sides went into the break level when he struck home on the second bite of the cherry after his initial shot was blocked by Geoffrey Kokoyo having been picked up by Mang’oli on the right.
At the start of the second period, Muhiddin bolstered his forward line, pulling out Abege for Danny Sserunkuma while Anthony ‘Muki’ Kimani came on for Humphrey Okoti.
Kimani’s introduction was a clear aim to go all out attack and it was evident with Bandari’s forward play much improved.
Matano responded by bringing in Boniface Onyango and Enosh Ochieng for Erick Apul and Mark Makwatta, also another attack minded change and barely three minutes into the pitch, Ochieng’ had an enormous opportunity to take his side back into the lead but his header after breaking the offside trap was well handled by Obungu.
Bandari’s new forward partnership continued to be a problem for the soldiers and Sserunkuma was gifted with a golden chance in the 67th minute but Saruni pulled off a superb one handed save.
With the temperatures lowering, Ulinzi regained some footing and again it was Kasuti who was threatening. The youngster, recently called up to Harambee Stars junior team had two successive chances, first miscuing a kick from Kokoyo’s header while in the second opportunity he stung Obungu’s arms with a ferocious shot from distance.
Despite the late pressure, Matano’s men, who have never lost to Bandari in a league match down at the coast could not get a way into a win as they moved to ten points from six matches.