NAKURU, Kenya, Mar 10 – Newly promoted Nzoia Sugar made a resounding statement in their first Kenyan Premier League match in 12 years beating defending champions Tusker FC 5-2 at the Afraha Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Nzoia came from a goal down to win the match, adding more pressure on new Tusker head coach George ‘Best’ Nsimbe who remains winless in four competitive matches since taking over at the club.
“It is very disappointing for us to lose in this way. We didn’t play as a team and we struggled to coordinate and we ended up making very many mistakes. We underrated them and they punished us. There is definitely pressure on us because we are the defending champions,” Tusker head coach George ‘Best’ Nsimbe said after the match.
His opposite number Bernard Mwalala was excited after the final whistle, saying he did not expect the huge win.
“To be honest I am very shocked. I knew we would win, but not with this kind of margin. We have played Tusker before and we knew their weaknesses. We knew they were slow and the only way to beat them was to inject pace. It is a very good start for us especially against the champions,” Mwalala told Capital Sport.
The defending champions who have started the year on a slump missed two of their key players; midfielder Humphrey Mieno who is injured and forward Allan Wanga who is sick. The absence of the two was hugely felt and Nsimbe admitted as much after the game.
Noah Wafula had given Tusker FC a ninth minute lead before Elvis Rupia equalized in the 22nd minute. Former AFC Leopards defender Edwin Wafula took Nzoia 2-1 up at half time.
Upon resumption, Tusker drew level through a well taken Shafik Batambuze freekick, but a brace from defender Brian Otieno and a curling corner from the speedy Boniface Omondi gave the Bungoma-based side control of the game.
Tusker would have pulled one back late on but Clifford Alwanga saw his penalty saved by Nzoia keeper Benson Mangala.
Nzoia started the match with much pace, taking the game to Tusker and should have opened the scores within the opening five minutes were they more clinical.
Masita Masuta had the best chance for the newbies when the ball fell kindly on his path from a Hillary Wandera cross, but he miscued his control yards off with Duncan Ochieng already on the floor.
They were punished in the 9th minute when Wafula shot low inside the box after taking a little touch to evade his marker.
Nzoia drew level in the 22nd minute when Rupia sneaked in at the back post to head in freely after being picked out by a well weighted Lawrence Juma freekick.
On the opposite end, Tusker almost grabbed back the lead but Cersidy Okeyo’s shot from the edge of the box went inches over. On the counter on the half hour mark, Nzoia had another chance but Masuta shot over after being put through by Boniface Omondi.
Nzoia took the lead five minutes from the break, Wafula scoring from the penalty spot after Masuta was hauled down inside the box by Lloyd Wahome.
But Tusker drew back level two minutes after the break, Batambuze curling a superb freekick over the wall and past Mangala in the Nzoia goal.
The brewers knew they had gotten a hold back into the game, but they were shocked with centre back Otieno scoring a quick brace from well executed set pieces from Odhiambo.
He struck the first in the 53rd minute scrambling at the far post after some poor marking from the Tusker players and he added a second in the 65th minute with a powerful header, towering between the Tusker backline.
Nsimbe was threw aback and made his first change, Sidney Ochieng coming in for Samwel Olwande forcing Batambuze to drop down to left back.
But the drive to get back into the game was thwarted 11 minutes from time when Odhiambo’s curling header caught Ochieng off guard and the keeper went over the line with the ball. Tusker should have grabbed at least one back after Alwanga was axed inside the box but he saw his penalty saved.