THIKA, Kenya, Sep 17- A hard fighting Thika United got an important point to aid their relegation fight after holding Kenyan Premier League leaders Gor Mahia to a 0-0 draw in a competitive encounter at the Thika Sub-County Stadium on Sunday evening.
Gor would have gone 12 points clear at the top of the standings had they won but the point still gives them a safe buffer, sitting a cool 9 points clear of second placed Sofapaka and with a match in hand.
Most would have expected Gor who have scored seven goals in two matches to come in and exert their dominance over the relegation threatened Thika United, but the home side came in full throttle, showing that they can also contest by taking K’Ogalo head on.
Gor had the first chance of the game with Meddie Kagere getting an opportunity at close range from a Timothy Otieno cross, but the ball took an awkward bounce infront of him bumping on his knee and chest before going wide.
K’Ogalo continued to put in the early pressure with Karim Nizigiyimana’s shot from the edge of the area blocked for a corner by the resilient Thika defense.
Thika were cool, calm and composed in their approach and they passed the ball beautifully with Saad Musa and Said Tsuma combining well in midfield, Eugene Mukangala and Shami Kibwana providing the options upfront.
The hosts thought they had grabbed the lead in the 25th minute when Kibwana tapped away from Boniface Oluoch from way out after a swift counter attack from a corner, but the first assistant referee’s flag was up for offside.
After the restart, Gor threw bodies upfront and a foul from 30 yards out saw Kenneth Muguna get a chance from a freekick but the set piece flew straight into Thika keeper Allan Owiny’s arms.
Nicholas Muyoti’s men continued knocking the ball beautifully around the field, trying to open up the Gor defense. They succeeded in the 28th minute when Saad released Mukangala who was isolated on the right, but the latter’s attempt at beating Boniface Oluoch at his near post was weak.
The game turned out into a full contest especially in the centre of the pack where they two sides sought dominance. It was a beautiful display from the two sides and no one at first sight would judge Thika as a side fighting relegation.
At the stroke of halftime, Gor had the ball inside the net when Meddie Kagere connected to a Timothy Otieno cross but the goal was ruled out for offside.
In the second half, Gor dropped down their levels, fatigue clearly stepping on their toes having played three games in a week all on travels.
Timothy Otieno had Gor’s first and best chance of the second half but his shot from the edge of the box after being teed up by Muguna with a clever little backheel went wide.
On the counter in the 58th minute, Thika should have gone into the lead but Kibwana with only Musa Mohammed to beat took too many touches on the ball, allowing the backtracking Gor players to come in for cover.
Gor Mahia boss Dylan Kerr made changes, pulling out Ernest Wendo for Oliver Maloba while Otieno came off for Jacques Tuyisenge. With the change, Gor went up with two strikers, Tuyisenge teaming up wit Kagere while Maloba went wide.
Kenneth Muguna who had been deployed as a number 10 dropped back to the creative midfield slot while Philemon Otieno took over the role of defensive midfielder. Later, Francis Kahata was introduced for George Odhiambo as Kerr sought keys to unlock the Thika defense.
Again, it was the hosts who had another chance of breaking the deadlock, again Mwinyi finding himself in space after intercepting Boniface Oluoch’s low clearance but he could not get a shot on target.
In the final 10 minutes of the game, Gor piled pressure in search of the winner with Tuyisenge seeing two of his close range efforts well saved by Thika keeper Owiny.