NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 19- Ulinzi Stars’ bid to move second on the Kenyan Premier League standings encountered speed bumps after being held to a 1-1 draw by Western Stima at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on Wednesday, the third consecutive identical draw result between the two sides.
Raymond Murugi scored the opener for the visitors in the 32nd minute but Stephen Waruru cancelled it out within two minutes, in a game that the military side hit the post twice and forced Stephen Otieno into two superb saves in the second half.
“These are two points we have dropped today. We had chances to score and win but we did not take them. I am disappointed with the result but hopefully we can improve against Mathare over the weekend,” an unimpressed Ulinzi coach Benjamin Nyangweso offered.
His opposite number Henry Omino was pleased with a point on the road.
“If I look at the performance today and compare with how we have played in the other four matches, I am very impressed. We have greatly improved and it gives me confidence we are on the right path. This was a very tough game and we managed to play well and pass the ball around with ease,” Omino whose side has only picked one win this season said.
It was an entertaining and hugely competitive first half with both teams showing hunger to win the game, Stima searching for their second win of the season while Ulinzi were looking to guard their unbeaten run this season.
Stima had the first opportunity of the game within the first minute with Brian Marita shooting over after Geoffrey Kokoyo’s attempted clearance had fallen on Herbart Kopany who sent his team mate through.
Immediately on the other end, Jackson Saleh was almost forced into an own goal after Samuel Onyango’s attempted cross came off his shin but luckily, the ball bounced off the upright.
The soldiers were forced into an early sub with defender Ben Sande limping off injured with a thigh strain he picked earlier during warm up and despite an effort to soldier on, he could not run and was stretchered off for under-20 graduate Alex Masinde who came on for his debut.
Ulinzi were on the ascendancy and not even the early change could put them off. In the 19th minute Brian Birgen took on a run from his right back position and shot at goal from the edge of the box with the keeper spilling the effort but no one was at hand to bury the rebound home.
Stima got into the lead in the 32nd minute off a counter attack with Murugu rounding off James Saruni to slot home.
No sooner had the ululations from the goal celebrations died down than Ulinzi got back in it. Waruru scored his second goal in as many matches, following up his earlier header off a Samuel Onyango cross which had come off the bar.
In the second half, it was the visitors who showed more hunger and Moses Arita should have done better in the 51st minute with a free header from a Marita cross, but he headed wide.
On the other end, Waruru’s low left footed shot was easily collected by the keeper in the 53rd minute before the pint-sized forward came close with another header which ricocheted off a defender and onto the post.
Samuel Otieno in the Stima goal was a busy man late on, making two superb blocks to deny Ulinzi. Twice, he flew on either side of goal to put out well struck free-kicks from Daniel Waweru and Oliver Rutto.
The result takes Ulinzi only one spot up to sixth with nine points, three shy of leaders Gor Mahia.