KERICHO, Kenya, Mar 7 – Season one regional and national champions Kapenguria Heroes remained on course to achieve a double of both after seeing off White Rhino 2-1 to sail into the final of the Rift region finals at the Kericho Green Stadium on Saturday.
Lanky forward Wesley Mtai scored the winner three minutes after the break to hand Kapenguria victory in a tightly contested semi, and a ticket to Sunday’s semi against Kajiado’s Laiser Hill.
Alfred Tanui broke the deadlock in the 15th minute before Rhino levelled in the 32nd through Tyson Kapchanga.
Contrary to the first semi, the duel between season one kings Kapenguria and newbies White Rhino was a closely contested encounter.
White Rhino thought they had broken the lead in the 12th minute when Kapchanga tapped the ball unmarked on the right, but the first assistant referee’s flag was up for offside.
With the alarm sounded, Kapenguria pumped up their attacking play and just three minutes after that, they were 1-0 up when Tanui broke the deadlock.
The midfielder raced onto the ball from a swift counter attack, broke into the box before opening his body well to place the ball at the far post beyond the keeper’s reach.
Tanui had a chance for a second in the 27th minute but his diving header off a Gilbert Deko cross went inches wide. Deko had done well to gain some ground on the right to pick out the cross which landed kindly at the edge of the six yard box.
Despite going down, the boys from Ololung’a did not drop their tails as they kept pushing. They had another shot at goal on the half hour mark when Kelvin Kata beautifully controlled the ball at the back post but his attempt at lifting it over the keeper was awry, the ball looping over.
But, two minutes later, things were tied at 1-1 in sublime fashion. Kapchanga who earlier on had a goal disallowed controlled a cross from the left calmly at the edge of the box before setting himself up for a scorcher that flew into the roof of the net.
White Rhino had the advantage swung in their favour and they played with more confidence, David Mwiti doing well to play the conductor’s role in midfield.
Their confidence was almost nipped in the bud six minutes to the break when Kapenguria had a chance, Deko’s freekick from the right being pushed to the bar by the keeper while Fredrick Krop’s attempt with a shot off the rebound was saved by the astute custodian.
On the turn, Rhinos should have gored their way ahead, but Kata struck his shot against the side netting after some silky piece of skill earned him good shooting space from a tight angle.
While it seemed the two would run each other close in the second half, Kapenguria just took three minutes to get back into the lead when Mtai bouned in a header from the edge of the six yard box off a cross from the left.
The goal looked to have caught Rhinos flat footed as Kapenguria entered into a period of dominance. Kevin Pkiech saw his thumping header crush against the crossbar in the 55th minute off Tanui’s corner.
Tanui had two back to back chances, but he wasted both opportunities to pull Kapenguria further away. In the 65th minute, he was denied one on one by the keeper while five minutes later, his bullet shot was turned behind for a corner.
The keeper was called into duty one again when he did well to turn Gregory Komoi’s freekick behind for a corner.
In the final quarter hour of the game, Rhinos added the pressure, looking to get an equalizer and at least send the game to penalties. However, their efforts all came to nothing with the closest being a shot from Kata at the near post which hit the side netting.