Football Football

Pressure on Ze Maria as Tusker tighten grip

Gor Mahia's technical bench led by Brazilian Jose 'Zemaria' Marcelo.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.
Gor Mahia’s technical bench led by Brazilian Jose ‘Zemaria’ Marcelo.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – With only one win in five matches and four points behind leaders Tusker FC, pressure is mounting on Gor Mahia head coach Jose ‘Ze Maria’ Marcelo with nine games left before the season comes to an end.

The defending champions, seeking a record 16th Kenyan Premier League title and fourth in succession, looked a pale shadow of their former selves on Sunday as they played to a goalless draw with Bandari FC at Kisumu’s Moi Stadium.

“Yes, there is pressure on us because we are not performing as well as we should. I think it is high time we get our groove back and I am optimistic we will work hard and start getting results soon. All is not lost because we still have nine matches to play,” Gor skipper Musa Mohammed said after the disappointing draw.

With a win, Gor would have maintained a two point gap behind Tusker, who leaped back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Mathare United following a three match winless streak.

Tusker head coach Paul Nkata was over the moon and the sigh of relief on his face was evident after the result at the Safaricom Kasarani Stadium.

“It is a relief for everyone in the team because over the last three matches, we had not performed well. Getting this win eased a lot of pressure on us, but the job is not yet done. We need to ensure the results are consistent,” Nkata told Capital Sport after the match.

Mathare United head coach Francis Kimanzi having a pep talk with his charges. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.
Mathare United head coach Francis Kimanzi having a pep talk with his charges. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

Francis Kimanzi’s Mathare slipped to nine points off the pace and the coach, who maintains he has already achieved his pre-season target, said he was happy with how his boys played.

“We worked hard but we have to admit Tusker worked harder than us, we have learnt from the performance and hope to build it up to the remaining games,” Kimanzi said.

With the battle at the top intensifying, the fight for survival at the bottom of the table is equally a tight contest.

The biggest result was Sofapaka’s 5-0 thumping of fellow relegation strugglers City Stars, a result that takes them to 12 points, one behind 15th placed City Stars.

Sofapaka’s intent to remain in the top tier was evident and assistant coach John Baraza is optimistic his side will make a comeback to remain in the league.

“We are taking each match as a final from now and we have to work hard. Everything is possible and this is a call for us to keep up and hoping for the best. We are 10 points behind Ushuru and yes it is a big margin but we can bridge the gap,” Baraza offered.

Ushuru’s third consecutive loss at the hands of AFC Leopards after throwing a 2-0 first-half lead saw them near the drop zone but head coach Ken Kenyatta wears a brave face they will not slip further.

KPL Weekend results

Saturday: AFC Leopards 3 Ushuru FC 2, Western Stima 0 Sony Sugar 3, Mathare United 0 Tusker FC 2.

Sunday: Gor Mahia 0 Bandari 0, Sofapaka 5 City Stars 0, Thika United 1 Kakamega Homeboyz 1, Chemelil Sugar 1 Muhoroni Youth 0.