NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20- Veteran Charles Okwemba struck a first half penalty and Dennis Lugalia scored late on as National Super League (NSL) leaders Vihiga United stunned defending champions Tusker FC 2-0 to book a slot in the semi-final of the GOtv Shield.
Tusker were shockingly lethargic in their approach and did not show any hunger of either winning the game or retaining the title they won for the first time in 23 years last year.
“I am really disappointed today because I can’t even understand why we played this badly. We had possession but possession without purpose. It is a sad moment for us because this is a cup we really wanted to retain,” a dejected Tusker head coach George Nsimbe said after the match.
His opposite number Edward Manoah was elated with the result, guiding the NSL side to their first ever domestic cup semi-final.
“We stuck to our strategy and that is what paid off. We play well with speed on the wings and our break out strategy was brilliantly executed. It is a calming result for the boys especially with the uncertainty around our sponsorship,” the former Chemelil Sugar boss told Capital Sport.
Vihiga, though not entirely dominant over the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions stuck to their strategy; defend well, find spaces and create chances. Though their head coach Manoah was sent to the stands with 15 minutes left, they still remained tucked to their style to see off the win.
Okwemba who has over two decades of experience playing in the Kenyan top flight was hugely influential for the NSL side, pulling strings in midfield and spraying passes well upfront.
Tusker’s Humphrey Mieno was hugely subdued and his body language spoke volumes of a team that clearly wasn’t in the best of shapes to win the match.
The holders dominated possession in the opening minutes of the game, but failed to get even a single shot on target to make their dominance count.
The visitors grew into the game with Tusker not taking their approach seriously and they had their first chance in the 17th minute when Dennis Wafula forced a save off Duncan Ochieng at the far post when he raced to connect to a cross from the right.
Their pressure paid off in the 24th minute when Okwemba scored from the spot after Marlon Tangauzi handled the ball inside the box in an attempt to defend from a corner.
Three minutes on the turn, the brewers had a chance to draw back level but Danson Kago, not in his best element wasted a glorious chance. Boniface Muchiri cut back the ball to him well placed the edge of the six yard box, but the winger blasted the ball over.
Vihiga managed to sustain the Tusker surge upfront and they kept their back four intact, not even their two fullbacks getting into any forays upfront. Tusker on their side were careless with possession and lost balls cheaply.
The defending champions were forced to change personnel with midfielder Cersidy Okeyo being forced out with a back injury and his place taken by Jackson Macharia.
In the second half Okwemba almost doubled his tally with a well taken volley from the edge of the box but it went inches wide after Godfrey Airo had chested down a cross or him. On the other end, Muchiri had an effort from a freekick deflect off the wall and out for a corner.
Vihiga kept their defensive shape with 15 minutes left on the clock, safeguarding their lone goal advantage.
With Tusker not showing any urge to score, it was the visitors who would get the last laugh, Lugalia nodding the ball home from close range after some suspect Tusker defending from a corner.