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Champs Gor, AFC seek return to happier days

New Gor Mahia head coach Hassan Oktay gestures during a training session at the Camp Toyoyo Ground on December 11, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 2 – Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards fans have had smiles few and far in between since the start of the 2018/2019 Kenyan Premier League transitional season with K’Ogalo winning only one of their domestic competitive fixtures this term while their nemesis Ingwe are still searching for their maiden win.

In three matches, Gor, the defending champions have won one and lost two, against Bandari FC and last weekend’s 1-0 beating at the hands of Kariobangi Sharks who completed a rare double over them after their KPL Super Cup win on December 1.

The loss to Sharks was like the twisting of a knife on Gor’s chest coming just a week after their Champions League exit in a tie they were more or less guaranteed of winning, but the side must now pick up and put their domestic campaign in order.

Gor play Chemelil Sugar at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Wednesday afternoon, head coach Hassan Oktay hoping that his side can bounce back to winning ways in a big way.

Despite the early season blip, the tactician who has taken over from Briton Dylan Kerr believes his side will come good once they deal with the little gremlins of transition and get their momentum right.

They will be hot favorites taking on Chemelil, the millers having picked up four points in four matches with a victory, two losses and a draw. Their lone victory this far came off a 2-0 result over struggling Mount Kenya United last weekend.

Chemelil have beaten Gor Mahia only twice over their last 20 league meetings and the last time the men from Awasi partied after a Gor victory was in 2010 when they blanked the side 3-0. The other victory was in 2009 when they won 2-1 in Nairobi.

Over the consecutive meetings, it is K’Ogalo who have had the last laugh and the best result Chemelil have afforded over the record champions is a barren draw in February 2016.

-AFC Look for first victory

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AFC Leopards head coach Marko Vasiljevic watches on during his side’s Kenyan Premier League clash against Sofapaka at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on December 22, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile in Nakuru, winless AFC Leopards will be out to find their mojo with new boss Marko Vasiljevic yet to record any victory since his appointment having been elevated after his would-be boss decided to walk out on the side barely a month after his appointment.

AFC have three points off three draws and a loss and the Serb will be hoping their first three points can come against Posta Rangers against whom they play on Wednesday afternoon at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru.

Posta are in transition having decided not to renew head coach Sammy Omollo’s contract and have since penned a deal with John Kamau who had erstwhile been appointed as Technical Director.

AFC find themselves in favor with the bookmakers as out of 17 meetings between them, they have only lost once to the mailmen and picked four victories with the rest of the seven ties ending in draws.

-Stima entertain Sofapaka

Sofapaka FC head coach Melis Medo reacts on the touchline during his side’s Kenyan Premier League match against Ulinzi Stars at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on December 29, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile in Kisumu, on-form Western Stima will welcome a Sofapaka side struggling to get their feet on the ground after massive changes in pre-season. A new coach, almost new team and the side is struggling to get their mojo, though there have been signs.

Stima who regained their spot back in the top tier after a season in the National Super League have been in superb form and remain one of the only four unbeaten teams placing second on the log with 10 points off three wins and a draw.

Head coach Paul Ogai seems to have injected some brilliant form into the side especially their defense which has conceded only twice in four games.

Not much of the same can be said of Sofapaka who have conceded seven goals so far, an average of at least two per game.

They have won only one match, their opening day 2-1 victory over Mount Kenya United and lost 2-1 to Bandari before posting identical 2-2 draws against AFC Leopards and Ulinzi Stars, all coming after they scored the first goal in the game.

Head coach Melis Medo has conceded he is worried by the defense and the attack; he says the side creates chance after chance but their conversion rate is low, while the rate at which they are conceding goals is alarming.

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For the Stima trip, they will miss the services of Cliff Kasuti who is serving a one match ban after his red card last weekend against Ulinzi Stars. Kasuti was handed his second yellow after being substituted, the ref carding him for joining the celebrations on the pitch after John Avire’s late equalizer.

-On-form Mathare tackle Bankers

Mathare United midfielder Kevin Kimani wheels away in celebration after scoring the opener against Posta Rangers in a Kenyan Premier League clash at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on December 29, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Elsewhere, another unbeaten side Mathare United will look to continue in their imperious start to the season when they face a struggling KCB side at the Kasarani Stadium.

KCB who made a return to top flight after three seasons are yet to taste victory and have only one point off a hard earned 1-1 draw against Bandari in Machakos.

Mathare on the contrary have been firing from all cylinders and lead the standings with 10 points, separated from Western Stima by goal difference.

The bankers who spent massively in the transfer window to also put up an almost entire outfit expect a tough duel and head coach Frank Ouna knows only too well that another drop in points will pile pressure on his shoulders.

-Bandari, Zoo rumble in Kericho

High flying Bandari who are placed third will meanwhile make the long travel of close to 800km to Kericho to take on Zoo as they also look to guard their unbeaten start.

Victories over Gor and Sofapaka injected some confidence in Bandari, but back to back draws against KCB and Stima have slowed down the momentum.

Zoo have lost thrice and won once, against Chemelil, but no one should ever count them out especially at their backyard in the green stadium. Last season, these two sides drew 2-2 in Mombasa and 1-1 in Kericho.

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-Shark attack on the Mount

Gor Mahia’s Bernard Ondiek attempts to take a shot under pressure from Kariobangi Sharks’ Tom Teka during their KPL Super Cup clash on December 4, 2018 at the Kasarani Stadium. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Meanwhile, Kariobangi Sharks will look to steal a top spot before the weekend when they take on struggling Mount Kenya at Kasarani. Despite having new owners and a change of name, the side has not had the fortune of results with the players said to be de-motivated due to unpaid salaries and allowances.

“The problem is off the pitch. Not inside the pitch. The management are better placed to talk about that,” head coach Antony Mwangi says.

Sharks are in superb form and the victory against champions Gor last weekend will definitely buoy them into this fixture with a bust of confidence.

KPL midweek fixtures:

Mount Kenya United v Kariobangi Sharks, Gor Mahia v Chemelil Sugar (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos), Posta Rangers v AFC Leopards (Afraha Stadium, Nakuru), Zoo Kericho v Bandari FC (Kericho), Sony Sugar v Kakamega Homeboyz (Awendo), Mathare United v KCB (Kasarani), Western Stima v Sofapaka (Moi Stadium, Kisumu), Nzoia Sugar v Ulinzi Stars (Sudi), Tusker FC v Vihiga United (Ruaraka).

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