NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 18 – It might still be early days to call with 29 rounds of matches to play, but Posta Rangers, Bandari and Sofapaka have shown all signs of being the dark horses in the run up to the Kenyan Premier League title this season.
The three won their matches against Mathare United, Thika United and Zoo Kericho respectively, hoisting them to second, third and fourth on the log behind leaders Gor Mahia who won 2-1 away to Sony Sugar on Saturday.
Of the three, Posta have had a stronger start, remaining as the only one of two unbeaten sides yet this season, coupling that up with a perfect defensive record that has seen them concede only one goal in five matches.
Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omollo who took over reins as head coach of Posta at the beginning of the season knows a thing or two about winning titles, having won the league thrice, twice as a player in 1994 and 1996 and once as a coach in 2011, all with Tusker FC (formerly Kenya Breweries).
He sees a bit of the title drive in his current side especially having six players who were part of his core side with Tusker in 2011, but as yet has refused to be drawn into talk of going for a title.
“So far so good. I am impressed with how we have played as a team and the kind of momentum we have gathered. It is too early to talk about the title but what I can say is that we will give it a push. Just take a match at a time and see what comes of it,” the soft spoken but stern tactician told Capital Sports.
Posta sit second, just a point behind leaders Gor who are on 12 after four wins and a single loss. Despite the strong start though, Omollo is worried with the side’s scoring statistics having won all their three matches with 1-0 margins.
“We need to start scoring more because a 1-0 scoreline is very dangerous. But one thing I am happy about however, is that we have been able to effectively defend our lead well apart from our 1-1 draw with Homeboyz where we conceded late,” the former hard tackling defender noted.
-Bandari on the rise-
On the other hand, Bandari have began the season in good style, perhaps thanks to the influence brought about by their new coach Paul Nkata.
The Ugandan who guided Tusker FC to the league title last season, just like Omollo is not getting drawn into excitement by the start that has seen them pick 10 points off a possible 15 in the opening five games of the season.
Bandari’s only loss this season has come away from home at the hands of Ulinzi Stars. They have been emphatic at home with identical 3-0 wins over Muhoroni Youth and Thika United as well as a 1-0 opening day result over Nakumatt FC.
“The league is a marathon and we still need to work harder and harder. We can’t focus so much on the results we have had. We need to focus on what we need to improve on and hopefully we can maintain same results,” commented the coach.
For a side whose best Premier League finish was fourth under Sheikh Twahir Muhidin in 2015, their positive start will be more than a push for them to keep going till November.
Nkata will be looking to be only the second man apart from Robert Matano in the modern KPL era to win the league twice with two different teams.
For Sofapaka, winners of the KPL title on their top flight debut in 2009, it is a hugely contrasting situation from last season where they survived relegation by the skin of their teeth.
The arrival of new sponsors and the return of their charismatic Ugandan tactician Sam Ssimbwa seems to have breathed a new lease of life on their campaign this term.
Since losing their opening game of the season 1-0 away to Sony Sugar, Batoto ba Mungu have picked three wins and a draw to sit fourth with 10 points.
Their run so far has hinged on what most would have considered ‘spent cartridges’ with the likes of Paul Odhiambo, Moses ‘Dube’ Odhiambo, Maurice Odipo, Charles Okwemba and Humphrey Okoti previous seen as beyond their best years proving to be the wheels that the club runs on.
Their emphatic 3-0 win over newbies Zoo Kericho over the weekend breathed new confidence on the side.
“It is such a great win for us and a morale booster. We played well but despite that we have to work on so many things. We are not the finished product yet. The work has just but began and hopefully we can improve,” Ssimbwa who handled Sofapaka in 2010/2011 noted.
Meanwhile, the Premier League new boys continue finding it hard adapting to the pace of the top tier. Zoo Kericho remains winless in their five games so far and are yet to score a Premier League goal.
Head coach Sammy Okoth who worked with relegated Ushuru FC last season has blamed this on the lack of experience from his side who overlooked signing any players with Premier League profiles on their resumes, choosing to have faith in the same squad that earned them promotion.
“Many of the players are yet to adapt to playing in the top flight and that is our biggest problem. But we are learning as we progress. Against Sofapaka, we played well despite losing 3-0. It was an unfortunate loss but I am confident we will improve,” Okoth noted.
For fellow newcomers Kariobangi Sharks, they finally seem to have found their rhythm, though both their wins have come from their fellow National Super League mates from last season.
The William Muluya coached side picked up their second win of the season with a 1-0 result over Nakumatt, building up on their 2-0 away in last weekend at Nzoia Sugar.
The result lifts them all the way to 10th on the log with six points while Zoo remain perched bottom and Nakumatt 16th, only separated from 17th placed Muhoroni Youth by goal difference.
KPL weekend results
Saturday: Sony Sugar 1 Gor Mahia 2 (Moi Stadium, Kisumu), Tusker FC 1 Ulinzi Stars 1 (Afraha Stadium, Nakuru).
Sunday: Bandari 3 Thika United 0, AFC Leopards 1 Muhoroni Youth 0 (Mbaraki Complex, Mombasa), Kakamega Homeboyz 1 Nzoia Sugar 2 (Mumias Complex), Western Stima 0 Chemelil Sugar 0 (Moi Stadium, Kisumu), Zoo Kericho 0 Sofapaka 3 (Kericho Green Stadium).
Monday: Kariobangi Sharks 1 Nakumatt FC (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos), Mathare United 0 Posta Rangers 1 (Thika Sub-County Stadium).