NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 18 – Defending Kenyan Premier League champions Tusker FC surged to the top of the table despite being held to a barren draw by new boys Kariobangi Sharks at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
Tusker moved to the apex on 28 points with joint leaders Gor Mahia being spanked 2-0 by Sofapaka at the Kinoru Stadium in Meru, Ezekiel Okare and new boy Timothy Ludda scoring a goal a-piece.
In Nakuru, four-time champions Ulinzi Stars were forced to dig deep to come from behind and draw 1-1 with visiting Sony Sugar while in Mumias, Kakamega Homeboyz and Zoo Kericho played out to a 3-3 stalemate.
In Meru, it was a nightmare start for new head coach Zedekiah Oyugi, just hours after his predecessor Jose Marcelo Ferreira was announced as the new head coach of Albanian side KF Tirana.
On top of going down 2-0 to Batoto ba Mungu the 15-time champions were reduced to 10 men with 11 minutes left after skipper Musa Mohammed was shown red.
Gor’s starting eleven saw several changes with midfielder Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza and Rwandese striker Jack Tuyisenge starting on the bench while former Muhoroni and Shabana left back Mike Simiyu started on the left side of defense.
Sofapaka boss Sam Ssimbwa paraded a hugely changed starting 11. New boys Ludda, Umar Kasumba, Feni Ali, Rodgers Aloro, Willis Ouma, Wesley Onguso and Hillary Echesa starting, with the latter captaining the side.
It was the 2009 champions who had the best of chances with Ezekiel Okare pouncing in the 11th minute to put his side ahead. Gor had chances to get back level with Timothy Otieno’s shot being picked up by Mathias Kigonya while Kenneth Muguna struck a freekick inches wide.
Late on in the first half, Meddie Kagere fresh from winning the golden boot in the Super Cup in Dar es Salaam came close but Kigonya produced a fine save to deny him point blank.
Ludda capped off his maiden start for Sofapaka with a goal early in the second half after Boniface Oluoch spilled a shot and the former Thika United man simply tapped home.
In Nakuru, Ulinzi Stars were forced to work hard in the second half before Stephen Waruru grabbed them a point with his eighth goal of the season. Amos Asembeka’s well slapped volley had given the sugar men a deserved first half lead.
Ulinzi were the first to ask the questions with Brian Birgen’s shot after cutting in from the right going inches wide.
But from then, it was Sony who commanded play with Boniface Muchiri and Amos Asembeka being the biggest threat for the soldiers with their pace and trickery on the ball.
The boys from Awendo were gifted for all their persistence and pressure in the 22nd minute when Asembeka volleyed home picking up the ball from a poor Ulinzi clearance inside the box.
Abdallah Hamisi came close with a shot from distance which was well picked up by Ulinzi keeper James Saruni.
Eight minutes to the break, Muchiri was gifted with a chance after Geoffrey Kokoyo’s clearance fell on his path, but the midfielder dribbled too much and Ben Sande covered up clearing his goal bound shot.
The half time whistle couldn’t come at a better time for the home side who had struggled to get their hold of the game but once they emerged off the dressing room, they were determined to right the wrongs.
But in their quest upfront, they were almost caught napping three minutes after the restart with Muchiri’s strike from distance hitting the crossbar, Saruni left rooted to his spot.
On the hour mark, the soldiers got the much needed reprieve when Waruru struck home from a yard out. Samuel Onyango, playing against his former side took on a daunting run on the right, hit twice at goal with the Sony keeper saving.
On the second attempt, Waruru picked the rebound and guided it home.
After drawing level, Ulinzi had two other good chances back to back to go ahead. First, Daniel Waweru’s diving header was cleared off the line for a corner and from the resultant set piece, Enosh Ochieng headed inches wide.
They continued with the pressure and Birgen on his customary forays upfront forced the Sony keeper to a good save with a good lofted ball.
The visitors thought they should have had a late penalty after Muchiri was fouled inside the box, but the referee had none of it, with the Sony bench up in arms. Waweru was called upon to clear off the line later when Fredrick Onyango rose to head in Asembeka’s corner.