NAKURU, Kenya, Aug 24 – Four-time Premier League champions Ulinzi Stars were held to a barren draw by visiting Posta Rangers in a match played at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on Wednesday afternoon.
Missing head coach Robert Matano through illness, Ulinzi who are playing catch-up matches having been away for the East Africa Military Games failed to pick maximum points at home, a result that would have seen them significantly reduce the gap between them and leaders Tusker FC.
Rangers looked quite comfortable in the first half, despite the fact they were the away side. But having spent the last one week at the Afraha pitch where they took part in the annual KECOSO games, Zedekiah Otieno’s men looked quite comfortable.
But despite bossing possession, the visitors never created as much danger in the final third with Ulinzi taking the ball into their hands whenever they had possession.
Stephen Waruru had the first opportunity for the military side, dribbling past three of his markers to create some shooting space but his eventual effort was weak and wide.
As the half grew on, so did Posta start coming into the match. In the 23rd minute, Moses Otieno swung in an inviting free kick from the right but the ball was entirely missed by three Posta men attacking it at the far post.
A minute later, Mohammed Hassan slid in inside the box to produce a superb block to keep out a fierce shot from Collins Neto who had found the ball isolated at the edge of the box.
The game was reduced to a physical contest with tackles flying all over the place, Ulinzi bearing the brunt of it all, with three of their players getting into the referee’s book.
The soldiers had three chances towards the break, first Waruru’s free kick deflecting against the wall for a fruitless corner before the lanky Oscar Wamalwa missed to put his body against the ball unmarked inside the box from a well weighted Samuel Onyango cross.
At the break, Brian Birgen who was employed in a more advanced position opposed to his preferred right back slot pulled a great shot from 40 yards out which Posta keeper Patrick Matasi stretched to palm away.
In the second half, Ulinzi picked up on the same gear they ended the first, pinning Posta in their own half in search of a much needed goal.
Hashim Mukhwana was forced into a goal line clearance, turning the ball behind for a corner after Waruru had risen to flick the ball past an advancing Matasi.
On the hour mark, Posta almost snatched the lead against the run of play after Ulinzi custodian James Saruni spilled a shot from Timothy Otieno after it took an awkward bounce in front of him with Neto rushing for the rebound but failing to get it inside the net.
Rangers sat back, sucked in the pressure and attacked on the counter as Ulinzi piled up more attacks. On the counter again, Posta shot off, this time Neto beating Omar Mbongi for pace but Saruni came to Ulinzi’s rescue with a one handed save to push the shot away.
In the final ten minutes of the game, Ulinzi upped the ante and they came close three minutes to time with substitute Daniel Waweru forcing Matasi to a superb save from a free kick.