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Baraza angles Sofapaka hammer at K’Ogalo

Sofapaka FC head coach John Baraza all smiles during a training session at the club’s base in Eastleigh on February 15, 2019

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15 – Five wins in six matches and 2009 Kenyan Premier League champions Sofapaka have created the belief that a second title cannot be yonder than the 2018-19 campaign.

Emphatic victory against table topping Mathare United last Tuesday hoisted John Baraza’s men to third in the standings with a two-point deficit from the leaders and another victory against holders Gor Mahia on Sunday will all but surely put them firmly in the race.

Baraza who has engineered a turnaround for the side since taking charge says his side is focused on harvesting all three from Gor and believes they are in the right mentality to do so.

“It is very important to win because Gor just like Mathare, Tusker and Bandari are firm title contenders, same to us. We have to make sure we get points out of them and this will improve our position on the table,” Baraza told Capital Sport.

Sofapaka’s Titus Achesa (right) leads teammates in celebrating his goal against mathare United during a Kenyan Premier League match at the Kasarani Stadium on February 12, 2019. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

Tuesday’s four-star performance against Mathare has further fueled Batoto ba Mungu’s belief that they can go the full length and compete for the table.

“Mathare is a top team and getting a win over them was important for our motivation as a team. If we keep winning against such teams then, we are heading somewhere,” he noted.

The youthful tactician who won the league with the club as a player in 2009 took charge with results being hard to come by and the side willowing in the bottom half of the table with only one win in seven games.

However, he has brought back belief to the side and he attributes this to giving the players more freedom to express themselves.

One of the players who has hugely flourished under Baraza is defender Faina Jacoms whose prowess in the defensive pairing with Burundian international Mousa Omar has been phenomenal.

Faina arrived with former head coach Melis Medo from Mount Kenya United but was on the fringes for most of the games, only starting twice and playing at right back.

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Sofapaka FC defender Faina Jacobs contends for the ball with teammate Umaru Kassumba during a training session at the club’s base in Eastleigh on February 15, 2019

However, when Baraza took charge, he swung him into central defense and has flourished with the side conceding only three goals in six games, two of them coming off set pieces.

“He is a player that I knew from long ago because when I was playing and he was at Muhoroni, he was a tough defender to take on. When I took over, I knew immediately where to place him and the results have been evident. He has been one of our best players,” Baraza added.

Sofapaka has only won thrice against Gor Mahia in 20 league meetings. Last season, the first leg ended 3-3 in a dramatic game in Machakos. Gor were leading 2-0 before Sofapaka fought back to lead 3-2, but then conceded a late equalizer.

The second leg was a one-way swing for Gor ho comfortably won 3-0. The last time Sofapaka beat Gor is in June 2017 when they won 2-0.

Baraza’s men will hope to capitalize on Gor Mahia’s fatigue as they will have only two days to rest after playing a tough game away in Angola in the CAF Confederations Cup.

AFC Leopards head coach Cassa Mbungo greets forward Brian Marita during his first match in charge against Mount Kenya United at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on February 7, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Meanwhile, under pressure AFC Leopards will be out to leave the doldrums of relegation when they take on a struggling Ulinzi Stars in Machakos on Sunday.

Ingwe are second from bottom in the standings, only one point off the bottom having lost all their last four games. New boss Cassa Mbungo will have his work cut out as he looks to lift Ingwe off the bottom.

Ulinzi on their side are struggling as well, the military side failing to win any of their last five games with four draws and a loss.

KPL weekend matches:

Saturday: Kariobangi Sharks v Bandari (Kasarani), Nzoia Sugar v Chemelil Sugar (Sudi, Bungoma), Tusker FC v Kakamega Homeboyz (Ruaraka).

Sunday: KCB v Sony Sugar, AFC Leopards v Ulinzi Stars (Machakos), Zoo Kericho v Mathare United (Kericho), Western Stima v Mount Kenya United (Kisumu), Vihiga United v Posta Rangers (Kakamega).

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