NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 21- A 1-0 win over Ulinzi Stars on Saturday in Kericho saw Gor Mahia crowned the 2017 Kenyan Premier League champions for a record 16th time with four matches to spare, moving mathematically clear of the chasing opposition.
Heading into the match, Gor needed just a point to ensure they clinch the title, but they went the full distance, beating the military side courtesy of Meddie Kagere’s goal on the quarter hour mark, his 11th goal of the Premier League campaign.
The win sees Gor move 18 points clear of second placed Sofapaka.
From the onset, Gor who drew with Ulinzi Stars in the first-leg in Kisumu were in Kericho for business. George Blackberry Odhiambo saw a shot whisk wide in the 12th minute after Timothy Odhiambo’s feeble punch from a Jacques Tuyisenge header fell kindly on his path.
Three minutes later, K’Ogalo scored what would be the goal that wins them the championship when Kagere simply beat Ulinzi keeper Timothy Odhiambo one-on-one after picking up a defense splitting pass from Francis Kahata.
K’Ogalo should have gone two up in the 22nd minute but Tuyisenge failed to convert with the keeper only to beat after the Ulinzi defense once again caught in shambles this time from a Kenneth Muguna pass.
A minute later, Muguna had a chance for himself when he rose high in the midst of Ulinzi markers to meet a Tuyisenge cross, but he could not get a firm thump to it with the ball falling kindly into Odhiambo’s arms.
Under the light showers and slippery conditions of the pitch, Gor were dictating play and had pressed Ulinzi into their own half, despite the soldiers fielding a near full strength squad after the return of several first team players.
The soldiers had to wait until the 25th minute for their first effort at goal, emanating from a Bernard Ongoma shot which did little to trouble the Gor keeper as it sailed wide.
In the 29th minute, Mohammed Hassan tried his luck with a freekick from the edge of the box after Harun Shakava had hacked down Samuel Onyango, but the ball could only sail wide, Ulinzi again failing to hit the bull’s eye.
Head coach Benjamin Nyangweso was forced to reshuffle his tactical cards, pulling out Boniface Onyango who had been overwhelmed on his return from injury and bringing in under-20 title winning skipper Ibrahim Shambi.
But Gor still kept their surge and Brian Birgen was forced to clear the ball off the line in the 32nd minute after Blackberry had tapped the ball away from the Ulinzi keeper.
On the other end five minutes later, Musa Mohammed also cleared the ball off the line for Gor, keeping off Onyango’s shot from the right with the winger having sprung up past Wellington Ochieng.
In the second half, Ulinzi started off with another change, this time Kasuti coming off for Daniel Waweru who had been rested for the first time this season. Ulinzi’s attacking flow upped a bit, but still they couldn’t trouble Gor much.
Kagere had another one-on-one chance against Ulinzi’s Odhiambo in the 65th minute, but he couldn’t complete his double, placing the ball wide.