NAKURU, Kenya, Apr 23 – A three-goal blitz in the opening 13 minutes laid the platform for Ulinzi Stars to annihilate a rudderless Mathare United 5-1 in a lop-sided Kenyan Premier League clash at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on Sunday.
This was the first match for Mathare without their head coach Francis Kimanzi who is serving a one-month touchline ban slapped on him by the Kenyan Premier League Independent Disciplinary and Complaints Committee (IDCC) and his absence was hugely felt.
“When the head coach who is also the leader of the team is missing then definitely his absence has to be felt. It is such a blow to be without him, but we will do our best,” assistant coach Salim Ali told Capital Sport after the match.
Kimanzi was positioned up in the stands as he watched his side’s annihilation, the most he could do being passing messages via calls to the team manager as he tried to salvage his side’s embarrassing defeat.
For Ulinzi, it was a resounding response after their back-to-back draws against defendind champions Tusker and Western Stima in matches in which they had chances to win but failed to take them.
“It is such a great win for us. We had been talking about using our chances, today we did exactly that. Winning by such a huge margin is also a motivation for us,” Ulinzi Stars head coach Benjamin Nyangweso, clearly pleased with the result and performance noted after the match.
The soldiers hit the opener in the fifth minute when Samuel Onyango scored his second goal of the season. Criticized by his manager over his performance over the last two matches, the winger produced the finest response to nod home a Brian Birgen cross.
Four minutes later, Ulinzi were 2-0 up thanks to Stephen Waruru who continued with his resounding form, scoring his third goal in as many matches when he sneaked behind the defense to tap in a low cross from Oliver Rutto.
The pint-sized assassin grabbed a brace to make it 3-0 four minutes later, this time blasting the ball into the roof of the net after being put through by Birgen whose initial shot after a foray from his right back position was blocked but managed to pick the ball.
The soldiers had cruise control of the match, playing with confidence and managed to compose themselves well enough to knock the ball around with ease.
The young Mathare side however, never gave up hope as they kept fighting and Derrick Onyango pulled one back with a belter after racing to an Abubakar Keya pass against the run of play.
Mathare increased their fighting spirit as they knew a second goal would put them right back into contention, but an Ulinzi side with immense experience managed to handle the pressure well.
They should have even gone to the break with a three goal margin, but Onyango missed a great chance after shooting just wide with keeper Levis Opiyo out of his line with Daniel Waweru having sent him through.
Mathare began the second half better and Mohammed Hassan was forced to clear from the line three minutes after the restart, following a loose ball inside the box that was toe-poked towards goal by Alphonce Ndonye.
On the other end, Opiyo pulled a great save to deny Onyango who had put up a spirited run from deep in his own half, broke into the box and released a powerful shot.
On the other end, Saruni made a great save off Keya from a ball at the edge of the six yard box.
Ulinzi though kept their command of the game and in the 63rd minute Onyango had another superb chance after Waweru had won the ball off George Owino to feed his teammate through, but Opiyo made a finger tip save to force the ball off for a corner.
Waweru then made it 4-1 for his side in the 72nd minute slapping home from the penalty spot after Owino had nudged down Cliff Kasuti in the area.
Substitute Enosh Ochieng then finished off the match in the 87th minute with a simple header from Waweru’s cross. The midfielder had once again stolen possession to turn the tide on Mathare, but was forced wide by keeper Levis Opiyo before managing to float in the cross.
Mathare had a chance to cut the deficit but nothing could brighten their day as Derrick Onyango’s 89th minute penalty after Rutto had fouled Daniel Mwaura was well saved by James Saruni.
The result takes Ulinzi to fourth in the log on 12 points, just one shy of leaders Posta Rangers who are on 13.