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Gor Mahia, Ulinzi headline KPL U20 semi-final action

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Ulinzi Stars players celebrate after scoring in one of the preliminary matches/PHOTO-Timothy Olobulu
Ulinzi Stars players celebrate after scoring in one of the preliminary matches/PHOTO-Timothy Olobulu

MACHAKOS, April 27 – Ulinzi Stars have vowed to silence Gor Mahia when the two sides meet in the semi-final of the third edition of the Kenya Premier League Under-20 championship on Thursday at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

The two sides will play in the first semi of the tournament with Kakamega Homeboyz, another highly fancied side taking on Mathare United in the second semi at 1pm. These two matches will act as curtain raisers for the SportPesa Premier League match pitting Mathare United and Tusker FC which kicks off at 4:15pm.

Ulinzi Stars assistant coach Lawrence Owino is beaming with confidence his side has grown in stature since the first game of the tournament. The boys from Nakuru finished top of Group C with two wins and one loss before seeing off City Stars 3-1 in the last eight.

“I have watched Gor and I believe it is a team we can manage, though it will be a very tough match. They love to play the ball and if we give them any space, they might punish us. I have faith in my boys because I know we will be able to contain them and win. Our target is to go all the way to the final,” Owino, a former Ulinzi Stars FC winger told Capital Sport.

The Gor juniors came into the tournament as high favourites but were welcomed with a rude shock, losing 2-0 to AFC Leopards in their first match. Coach Maurice Onyango said that loss swung them back to reality and they went on to maintain an unbeaten run.

Gor Mahia midfielder Joseph Waruinge controls the ball in a past match. He is one of the players to watch/PHOTO-Timothy Olobulu
Gor Mahia midfielder Joseph Waruinge controls the ball in a past match. He is one of the players to watch/PHOTO-Timothy Olobulu

“We came into this tournament thinking we are invincible and no one can beat us. After losing against AFC, we were shocked back to reality. That loss spurred us to improve in each match and we are now in the semis. It is good progress.”

Looking ahead to the Ulinzi match: “They are a very good side and we should not underrate them. Physically they are good and tactically as well, they are a strong team. It is going to be a tough match. Our target remains to get to the final,” Onyango added.

Ulinzi Stars are making it into the last four for the second time, having been in the same situation during the inaugural edition in 2011 where they failed to progress to the final.

In the second match of the afternoon, highly fancied Kakamega Homeboyz, coached by former AFC Leopards coach Gilbert Selebwa will be taking on Mathare United in what promises to be a highly tactical match.

Mathare United players walk off the pitch after a past preliminary match/PHOTO-Timothy Olobulu
Mathare United players walk off the pitch after a past preliminary match/PHOTO-Timothy Olobulu

Homeboyz who have picked players from five schools around Kakamega town haven’t lost a match from the group stages and are seen as the favourites for the title.  Selebwa is not letting the praise get into his team and has affirmed they are taking a match at a time and he expects a very tough encounter from Mathare.

“They play more like us; pass the ball around, move with speed and like to dominate play. For me, this is the final before the final. We have encountered more physical and athletic teams and we managed to go through so against Mathare, I know we stand a chance,” Selebwa said.

He has urged his boys to take charge of the game from the start and make use of their chances noting if they play according to instruction, a final berth wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea.

Winners of the tournament walk away with Sh500,000.  The second placed team will get Sh200,000 while the third place side gets Sh100,000. The final will be played on Monday May 2 at the Nyayo National Stadium.

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