NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5- Kenyan Premier League defending champions Gor Mahia and GOtv Shield holders AFC Leopards had contrasting starts to the 2018 season last weekend, but that little detail will be put behind when they shift their focus to continental assignments this weekend.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has given the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega thumbs up it will host AFC’s tie against Madagascan side FOSA Juniors FC on Sunday while Gor will start their campaign against Leones Vegetarianos of Equatorial Guinea on Saturday in Machakos.
Gor Mahia began their season in emphatic fashion, blowing away Nakumatt FC 4-0 last Saturday in a match head coach Dylan Kerr believes should have had a bigger goal haul, but the tactician believes the result gives them a psychological edge ahead of Saturday’s game.
“We should have had at least six goals in each half and I was a bit frustrated with the finishing. However, creating those many chances means we are doing something positive and we can improve that in training,” the coach said.
“It gives us some boost of confidence and the players now see that many things are possible. This week we will work on a few areas of weakness and ensure we are very ready for Saturday,” the tactician further added.
K’Ogalo will have a third feel this year of the Machakos Stadium on Tuesday when they play Sudanese champions Al Hilal in a friendly match and Kerr says he will give playing time to those he feels have not had enough time to prove their worth.
“They have to show me that they want to be part of the team on Saturday and this is their chance. I already know most of the first team players but there are some especially the new ones who have not had quite the opportunity to show,” Kerr noted.
Among those who are likely to earn starts include midfielder Cersidy Okeyo who came on as a sub against Nakumatt, Lawrence Juma and Bernard Ondiek who were all January arrivals at the club.
AFC started their season with a 1-1 result against Posta Rangers but boosted their confidence with a 4-2 win over Al Hilal on Sunday.
Head coach Robert Matano is looking on the brighter side of things, noting his team has been improving since their Super Cup loss to Gor Mahia.
“The new players are integrating into the team very well and the most important thing is that as a team we are improving. I am confident in the players and we will get very good results this season,” added the experienced tactician.
Gor Mahia moved to the top of the standings after this weekend’s results having blasted four unanswered goals past Nakumatt while Bandari who produced the other shock of the weekend start off at second after beating Sofapaka 3-0.
Ken Odhiambo, taking up his first full season as head coach made a statement of intent with his boys doing a commendable job against a star studded Sofapaka side in Narok.
Sofapaka gaffer Sam Ssimbwa was left red-faced after the result challenging his side to improve on their performance or risk watching the team play from the sidelines.
Elsewhere, Ulinzi Stars new boss Dunstan Nyaudo began his tenure in emphatic fashion, leading the military side to a commanding 4-2 victory over Zoo Kericho at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru.
It was sweet revenge for Ulinzi who lost home and away to Zoo last season and for Nyaudo, it was a priceless launch into the KPL as Ulinzi looks to win their fifth league title, their last being in 2010 under Benjamin Nyangweso who was fired at the close of last season.
The league’s two new boys, Wazito and Vihiga United had contrasting debuts with Wazito knicking away a 1-0 win over Sony Sugar at Camp Toyoyo while Vihiga United let off a 1-0 lead before losing 2-1 to Mathare United at Bukhungu.
Wazito boss Frank Ouna praised his boys for starting up the season with a win and was quick to outline that his primary target is to survive relegation and ensure another season in top flight.
“We have set ourselves a target of getting 40 points this season and that is what we are working on. We don’t want to be too ambitious and set unrealistic targets. We go a game at a time and I am pleased that we could start with a win,” Ouna said.
Sony on their side were left ruing the loss with head coach Salim Babu tearing down at the referee as well as the Camp Toyoyo pitch.
“That field should not host a Premier League match because it is very small and below standard. Also, we were let down by very poor officiating because I simply couldn’t understand what the referee was doing the whole afternoon,” Babu fumed after the game.
The slim win by Ouna’s men sees them start the season at eighth.
KPL weekend results:
Saturday: Ulinzi Stars 4 Zoo Kericho 2, Posta Rangers 1 AFC Leopards 1 (Afraha Stadium), Gor Mahia 4 Nakumatt 0, Chemelil Sugar 2 Tusker FC 0 (Chemelil Complex), Nzoia Sugar 0 Kariobangi Sharks 1 (Sudi Stadium, Bungoma), Wazito 1 Sony Sugar 0 (Camp Toyoyo).
Sunday: Sofapaka 0 Bandari 3 (Narok Stadium), Thika United 0 Kakamega Homeboyz 1 (Thika Stadium), Vihiga United 1 Mathare United 2 (Bukhungu Stadium, Kakamega).