NAKURU, Kenya, Nov 6- Tusker FC are the 2016 Kenyan Premier League champions after a 1-0 win over AFC Leopards at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru pulled them four points clear of defending champions Gor Mahia with a match to spare.
Shafik Batambuze scored the all-important goal in the 69th minute as Tusker broke a three-year dominance by Gor Mahia, handing Paul Nkata a second title in his first year in charge at Ruaraka.
Heading into the match, Tusker needed three points to guarantee the title at their stable and ensure the final game of the season against defending champions Gor will be just but a mere formality.
K’Ogalo who on Saturday won 2-0 against Muhoroni Youth needed a favor from their arch rivals AFC to hold Tusker to either a draw or beat them, handing them an opportunity to win a fourth consecutive title on the final match day on November 19.
Against a much improved Ingwe, Tusker at times struggled to assert their authority and they never showed as much they were fighting for the title.
They had to wait till the 24th minute to have their first chance at goal, Allan Wanga sneaking in at the blind side of the AFC defense to poke the ball marginally wide from an Anthony Ndolo cross from the left.
On the opposite end, Allan Katterega who had enjoyed a decent game for Ingwe had a snap shot from distance go inches over, catching Tusker keeper David Okello off guard.
On the counter, AFC Leopards came close to opening proceedings in the 32nd minute but Alfred Wekesa’s shot from a Mungai Kiongera through pass was feeble, Okello managing an easy catch.
Five minutes later, Wekesa had another chance but his header from a teasing Mousa Sissoko cross was well picked by Okello.
Towards the end of the half, Tusker who were a pale shadow of their title-chasing selves came close to getting the opener, but Ian Otieno stuck his foot out to block a shot from Noah Wafula who had broken on the right from a Mieno through pass.
In the second half, Leopards started stronger and Okello had to take one for the team 10 minutes into the half when he was forced to bring down Kiongera at the edge of the box after the forward broke through to pick out an Andrew Tololwa through pass.
Nkata read all the signals that his side was in for a long ride and on the hour mark brought on Clifford Alwanga for Ndolo who had all afternoon struggled to assert his presence.
Batambuze came close for Tusker in the 62nd minute with his freekick from the edge of the box being pushed to the crossbar by Ian Otieno. Five minutes later, Alwanga saw his header from an Osborne Monday corner go inches wide after out-jumping the entire Ingwe defense.
Tusker kept the pressure as the clock ticked and it finally paid off in the 69th minute when Batambuze struck low from the edge of the box after Monday spread a corner to his path.
Two minutes later, Katterega came close to taking Tusker down to earth with a sweetly struck volley from the edge of the box but the effort went over.
Despite the scare, Tusker grew in confidence and began to boss the game, playing it calm and restricting Stewart Hall’s side into their own half.
The brewers managed to run down the clock and there were tears and jubilation when referee Raphael Nduati blew the final whistle.