NAIROBI, Kenya, June 19- Muhoroni Youth progressed to their first ever Kenyan Premier League Top 8 final on away goal rule after holding 2011 champions Ulinzi Stars to a 1-1 draw at the Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday.
With the first leg having played out goalless, Muhorini who were the away team in the return leg only needed a scoring draw to progress and they managed to hold on to it despite Churchill Muloma having cancelled out Hamissi Abdallah’s first half goal.
Ulinzi head coach Robert Matano fielded one of his strongest line ups in the recent past with left back Oliver Rutto returning after a spell out on injury while Stephen Waruru who made a 45-minute appearance in the first leg started, partnering John Mark Makwatta in attack.
With Ezekiel Otuoma providing the depth with his speed on the wings, Ulinzi had potentially the strongest forward line in the field but a tale of missed chances was their biggest undoing in the opening half.
Muhoroni’s assistant coach Tom Juma had been forced to do without the suspended duo of Moses Arita and keeper Farouk Shikhalo and he brought on Lwamba Bebeto and Timothy Igweta in their places respectively.
Muhoroni had the first opportunity at goal with Samwel Ndung’u powering on a run on the left but his eventual cross rolled over the net.
In the 18th minute, Bebeto picked up the ball on the right and went straight at goal on the second touch, but Geoffrey Kokoyo put his body on the line to block for a corner.
Ulinzi upped their tempo going forward after surviving some nervous moments and they came close with Rutto rasping a shot against the upright after a daunting run on the left.
But two minutes on the turn, the military side was picking the ball from his own net after midfielder Hamissi Abdallah tapped into an empty net from a Wycliffe Nyangechi free kick that Ulinzi keeper James Saruni failed to decisively deal with.
Ulinzi should have gotten themselves back on level terms with Makwatta and Otuoma missing glorious opportunities
First, Makwatta’s header from the edge of the six yard box went over from a Brian Birgen cross in the 27th minute while a minute later, Makwatta turned provider spraying an enticing cross to Otuoma at the far right but the former Muhoroni man could not guide the ball into an empty net.
It was Muhoroni who would have gone to the breather with another goal, but Saruni made amends with a superb full stretched save to deny Francis Ocholla who had pulled a shot after the ball fell graciously on his feet from Kokoyo’s headed clearance from a Ndung’u cross.
In the second half, Muhoroni played bodies behind the ball, choosing to guard their precious single goal lead as they eyed a final appearance in a major tournament for the first time in their history.
Matano made his first substitution a few minutes into the second half, a rather eye raising pick pulling out Waruru who was one of the most efficient players in the opening half for Kevin Amwayi. He also altered his midfield, plucking off Eric Apul for Boniface Onyango.
Ulinzi piled the pressure but their resort of playing up long balls into the box never worked as Muhoroni endowed with height in defense easily dealt with the danger.
Keeper Igweta was called into action in the eight minute, parrying away a shot from Amwayi on the left before Rutto had his effort from the rebound kept away by Muchika’s feet.
Ulinzi got the equalizer in the 73rd minute when Churchill Muloma hit the ball into the net after a goalmouth melee.
The goal gave Ulinzi belief they could pick the vital winner and progress into the final for the third time in the tournament’s five year history.
Muhoroni though were in no mood to let history bypass them as they defended in numbers with assistant coach Juma pulling out striker Bebeto for defensive midfielder James Ogada in the final 15 minutes of the match.