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Mathare, Stima early leaders in title race

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

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 3 – Mathare United, champions in 2008 and Western Stima have emerged as the early front-runners towards the 2018/2019 Kenyan Premier League title with both sides picking up a positive start.

Mathare have been on a run of five winless games, winning four and drawing one of their opening fixtures. They have accumulated two more points than they had after the same number of matches last season where they have won three and drawn two.

Though silently not wanting to be dragged into title talk, Mathare boss Francis Kimanzi is keen to see the side break a thirst that has seen them wait for silverware since a decade ago when they won their only league title.

The Slum Boys look more convincing and assured than they did last season and signs that the young squad has finally come of age are visible.

“There are areas we worked on, tactically and technically, but bigger was the mental issue which has improved this time,” coach Kimanzi said.

One member of the squad who has been a standout performer is attacking midfielder Cliff Nyakeya who is continuously showing that his 2018 midfielder of the year award was not just but a fluke.

Nyakeya has scored in all of Mathare’s matches this season save for the drab 0-0 draw with Ulinzi Stars and stands top of the goal scorers’ chart with four goals.

-Western Stima remaining humble

Western Stima players line up before their match against Sofapaka at the Kenyatta Stadium in Kisumu on January 2, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile, Western Stima who returned to top flight football after serving one season in the cold of the National Super League have also started well, picking three wins and two draws to accumulate 11 points.

However, coach Paul Ogai has preferred to remain calm in the face of the good start, saying the team’s sole target is to remain in the league.

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“We learnt many bitter lessons from our relegation in 2017 and if you look at how the fans turn up in our home games, we would not want to disappoint them by dropping down again. Our target is to remain in the league and that is what we are working on,” Ogai said.

Stima were held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Sofapaka at their Moi Stadium backyard in Kisumu, their second consecutive draw after a similar result away to Bandari in Mombasa.

-Gor bouncing back

Meanwhile, as the two continue to give good results in the opening lap of the season, holders Gor Mahia seems to be slowly crawling back after a slow start.

Gor Mahia striker Jacques Tuyisenge congratulates Boniface Omondi after his goal against Chemelil Sugar in a Kenyan premier League fixture at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on January 2, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

A loss to Kariobangi Sharks last weekend putt some speed bumps on the journey to their title defense but they bounced back on Wednesday with a 2-0 beating of Chemelil Sugar.

New tactician Hassan Oktay is not worried despite the slow start and says he is confident the team will soon find its rhythm.

“I am happy with how we are doing because we are playing well and creating very many chances. We just need to improve on scoring but I am not worried,” the tactician further stated.

With the result, Gor moved to ninth in the standings with six points, seven behind early leaders Mathare. But, Gor have chance to cut that lead to size when the two sides clash on Sunday afternoon at the Kasarani Stadium.

-Tusker showing signs of potential

Another side that has quietly romped into a good start is Tusker FC under the apt tutelage of Robert Matano.

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Tusker FC players celebrate one of their two goals against Vihiga United in a Kenyan Premier League match at the Ruaraka Complex on January 2, 2018. PHOTO/Tusker FC

Third placed Tusker are on a run of three consecutive wins having picked up maximum points against Mount Kenya United, KCB and Vihiga United to move to 10 points at this stage of the season.

The brewers who last won the title in 2016 are looking to gain that tag of champion and with Matano having led them to a third spot finish after picking them up from the doldrums of relegation is keen to clinch his second league title with the brewers.

Tusker is among the top two scoring sides in the league thus far as they have scored nine goals, just like Mathare and have conceded only three.

“We are improving game by game and the thing now is to be consistent with results,” Matano says of his side’s start to the new campaign.

-Sofapaka yet to stamp authority

Tusker FC head coach Melis Medo passes instruction to defender Mousa Omar during their Kenyan premier League match against Western Stima at the Moi Stadium in Kisumu on January 2, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile, Sofapaka’s hunt to find both their feet firmly on the ground has continued after picking up a third successive draw in their away trip, playing to a 1-1 draw with Western Stima in Kisumu.

Batoto ba Mungu erstwhile drew 2-2 with both AFC Leopards and Ulinzi Stars and head coach Melis Medo is continuously growing frustrated with the side’s blunt attack.

“We create chances, but we just can’t score,” the tactician has continuously lamented. Sofapaka have six points off three draws and a win but while Medo might be concerned about the team’s forward line, he has to be equally worried of the defense.

Sofapaka have conceded the second highest number of goals this season (eight) and only Mount Kenya United and KCB both perched at the bottom of the table have conceded more (10).

It is an area he has to address especially noting that apart from Stima’s game on Wednesday, his side has scored first in all their first four games and lost one, drawing three and winning one.

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