NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 10 – Tusker FC head coach Robert Matano revealed that a halftime change in strategy and team shape was the magic behind the Brewers’ improved second half performance as they beat Kakamega Homeboyz 1-0 at the Bukhungu Stadium on Sunday to cement their hold on third spot in the Football Kenya Federation Premier League.
Meanwhile in Nairobi, Gor Mahia’s comeback from 3-1 down at halftime came short as South Sudanese Under-23 captain scored the winner with 12 minutes left as Kariobangi Sharks beat the defending champions 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller at Kasarani.
In front of their new head coach Carlos Manuel Vaz Pinto, Gor found themselves trailing at the break with Sharks going all out with a brace from the on-form Eric Kapaito.
Kapaito opened the scoring for William Muluya’s men in the fifth minute before Gor levelled matters nine minutes later after pouncing on a rebound inside the box.
Sharks kept their front playing momentum and were 2-1 up in the 18th minute through Daniel Sakari before Kapaito completed his brace and the ninth of the season five minutes to the break.
Perhaps with some little tactical advice from their new coach, Gor were an improved lot in the second half with John Macharia and Joachim Oluoch striking to level matters.
However, they were not to see off the comeback as Kuol scored the winner for Sharks in the final quarter of the game.
Meanwhile at the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega, 11-time champions Tusker FC survived a first half onslaught from Homeboyz before scoring in the 73rd minute through Henry Meja.
Homeboyz was the better side in the opening half and were guilty for many missed scoring chances and also had one goal ruled out for offside.
Matano revealed after the game that his halftime team talk turned matters around.
“It was a tough match and we expected that. We played some good football but in the first half we started slow and Homeboyz had started so well. But we contained them until the second half. I haven’t watched Homeboyz since last year so after seeing the first half we came back with a different strategy and the players understood what we wanted to do,” the tactician stated.
Homeboyz, still searching for a second win this season in the seventh time of asking started well and troubled Tusker from the word go. Leftback Hillary Wandera starting for the first time this season faced a torrid time against the pacy David Okoth.
Okoth had two chances, first outpacing Wandera before firing low from the right, but the shot came off the side netting. Minutes later he had another chance off the same movement, but this time his shot flushed inches wide across the face of goal.
The home side had another effort in the 13th minute when Shami Kibwana sent Allan Wanga with a peach of a through pass but the striker could not punish his former side as his intended chip over keeper Robert Mboya went wide.
Wanga was denied by Eugene Asike with 15 minutes left to the break when he raced onto a low cross from Okoth on the right, the Tusker defender throwing his body infront of the ball to block for a corner.
Tusker came off the break a rejuvenated side. They played with more pace and planted more balls behind the Homeboyz defense.
Just two minutes in, the Brewers had kissed the crossbar when Boniface Muchiri teed up Hashim Sempala from a short corner, but the Ugandan midfielder’s well rifled shot came off against the woodwork.
With 20 minutes left, Matano changed his tact further, making a triple substitution. Jackson Macharia, Muchiri and Apollo Otieno came off for Humphrey Mieno, Kepha Okoth and George Odhiambo.
It took just three minutes before the change in tact bore fruit.
Mieno released Luke Namanda on the right, the winger beating his marker for pace before cutting back a cross into the box. Okoth dummied and Meja controlled before calmly slotting into the bottom right.
In the final 10 minutes, Homeboyz piled the pressure trying to rescue a point, but Tusker defended with their hearts in their mouths to pluck three points on the road, cementing their hold on third place in the standings.