NAIROBI, Kenya, July 25- Gor Mahia head coach Jose Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ is hopeful his charges will close the three-point gap separating them with Kenyan Premier League leaders Tusker FC.
The Brazilian tactician was treated to a decent pre-birthday present on Sunday when Collins ‘Gattuso’ Okoth scored in the last minute of stoppage time as K’Ogalo ended a two-match winless streak to beat Nairobi City Stars 2-1 at the Nyayo National Stadium.
“It was a great match. I was impressed with the fighting spirit because the players showed urgency from kick-off. We reduced the gap between us and Tusker, but I am not worried about them. I am only concerned about my team and how we play. For us, it is a matter of trying to win all our matches until the season ends. I know it is difficult because the league is tough, but it’s a possibility,” Ze Maria, who marked his 43rd birthday on Monday underscored.
Okoth not only played a crucial role in scoring the winner but was also influential in Gor’s breakdown play which was an area the defending champions were struggling since the departure of Ugandan midfielder Khalid Aucho.
Tusker dropped points for the third consecutive time after being held to a 1-1 draw by bottom side Sofapaka at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
Head coach Paul Nkata was disappointed with how his team played but still believes the side will bounce back when the league resumes in a fortnight as it takes a break to pave way for the GOtv Shield this weekend.
The fight for this year’s title will seemingly go down to the wire with any of the top four sides (Tusker, Gor, Ulinzi Stars and Mathare United) being in a position to attack for the top prize, as compared to last season when K’Ogalo commanded a monopoly on the lead.
Ulinzi managed to resuscitate the slimmest of hopes of fighting for the title with a hard fought 3-2 win over Ushuru at the Afraha Stadium in Machakos, a result that takes them to within six points of leaders Tusker.
John Mark Makwatta struck a hat-trick with his side down to 10 men in the second half after Sylus Shitote was sent off for a deliberate handball on a goal-bound effort.
Head coach Robert Matano insists his side will fight till the final match of the season, even as he looks on to become the first coach in history to win the title with three different clubs having already won it with Sofapaka and Tusker FC.
Mathare United are fourth on 31 points as well but with an inferior goal difference after suffering a shock 2-0 defeat at the hands of Thika United.
The Slum Boys were caught flat foot by a tactically Thika side who needed the three points to ease relegation pressure off their shoulders.
Kimanzi was disappointed with how his boys played but is not worried despite going three matches without a win.
“We donated points to Thika. This is a match we should have won had we played better. We need to go back and work on our defense because we gifted those two goals to them. But I am not worried, I know we will keep working hard and furthermore, most of our targets seemed to be achieved,” the experienced tactician said.
Meanwhile, the fight for the top eight places continues to intensify with AFC Leopards, who beat Sony Sugar 1-0 creeping up to ninth from 13th.
Head coach Ivan Minnaert believes his side has picked momentum at the right time and will fight to finish within the top five.
Full weekend results:
Saturday: Mathare United 0 Thika United 2, AFC Leopards 1 Sony Sugar 0 (Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi), Chemelil Sugar 0 Kakamega Homeboyz 1 (Chemelil Complex), Western Stima 0 Posta Rangers 0 (Moi Stadium, Kisumu).
Sunday: Sofapaka 1 Tusker FC 1(Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos), Bandari 2 Muhoroni Youth 1 (Mbaraki Complex, Mombasa), Ulinzi Stars 3 Ushuru 2 (Afraha Stadium, Nakuru), Gor Mahia 2 City Stars 1 (Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi).