Matano's stars rising with Ulinzi

By alex wafula
Apr 18, 2015
  • Ulinzi Star's good form has given coach Robert Matano a cooling effect. They are third on the log. (Photo courtesy)

Robert Matano seems to be a man on a mission. Looking at how his Ulinzi Stars side have started the season, the experienced coach who has won the Kenyan Premier league title with two different sides seems to be seeking his third top flight title.

This is with Ulinzi. The military side produced another good performance on Thursday beating Muhoroni Youth 3-0. As a result, Ulinzi are now third on the log. Ulinzi last won the Premier League title in 2010 and tried in futility to defend it in 2011 losing it to Matano’s Tusker FC.

But in the opening seven games of the 2015 season, Ulinzi have shown every little glimpse of their 2010 self. Pundits wrote them off when their top scorer over the last three seasons Stephen Waruru left for a one year military assignment.

However, one man has stepped up to the vacant role and has done it with every sense of finesse. John Mark Makwata who joined Ulinzi from City Stars has so far scored five goals for Ulinzi and had a brace against Muhoroni.

Matano has also maintained largely the same squad that has been doing duty for Ulinzi for the last two seasons, only making a few additions. “The team has improved a lot and they are playing better each game.

It is a performance I would want to see sustained if we want to achieve our targets this season. We have to continue working hard.” Matano said after the team’s victory over Muhoroni. On Sunday they face off with Nakuru All Stars in the ‘Nakuru derby’ and he hopes his side can continue picking up good results.

All Stars have lost six out of their seven season opening fixtures. Last season, Ulinzi Stars beat them in both legs and coach Peter Okidi will need something special to stop the soldiers from picking up another three points against them.

KCB v Nairobi City Stars, Nyayo Stadium

Both teams have been stuttering at the gun and are in the bottom three of the standings. The bankers have four points from seven games and their only victory came in a 6-2 thrashing of Nakuru All Stars. Since then, they have lost five and drawn one.

The absence of their talismanic coach Rishadi Shedu who has been away for five weeks now seems to be taking its toll. Shedu helped them scrape from relegation last season and had vowed to make them a top eight material again.

Stand in coach Elvis Ayany with no much experience after hanging his boots last season believes the team is capable of bouncing into good results. “There is no crisis in the team and I believe we will start getting good results soon.

We are playing well only that we are a bit unfortunate in our finishing. It has been an area of concern and I am hoping we can improve early enough.” he said. The same could be said of  their opponents of the day City Stars.

After getting a wild card back to the Premier League following the FKF v KPL impasse, the boys from Kawangware have failed to show cause why they deserve that second chance. Only a point from seven matches and Paul Nkata’s side is again threatened with relegation.

They hope to change their story when they meet with a side they last beat in 2012.

Ushuru v AFC Leopards

Zdravko Logarusic’s AFC Leopards seem to be slowly picking up the tempo. After the one-all draw against arch rivals Gor Mahia last weekend, Ingwe picked up a decent 3-1 victory over KCB in midweek.

They face an Ushuru side which is also picking up confidence after suffering a terrible dip in form in the second half of last season. Coach Ken Kenyatta is already looking at the Ingwe fixture and salivating for a win They shocked Mathare United 2-1 on Wednesday.

“We know it is going to be a tough match but we are going there for a win. We want to continue picking up results but are focused on getting those three points against Leopards.” Kenyatta beamed.

Logarusic wants his side to be consistent and has rallied his troops to show their worth by beating Ushuru and making it two straight wins for the first time this season. However, two or possibly three men will be eager to make the difference in the match.

Mohammed Hassan was signed for Sh200,000 from Ushuru at the beginning of last season to replace Allan Wanga but he never lived to the hype. He only spent six months before going back to his former employers.

He has tried to find his feet but it has proved difficult to get back to the form that saw him top the scorers’ chart in the 2013 National Super League helping KRA to promotion. But, Hassan will be eager to show Ingwe that he was worth the price tag by scoring against them.

Charles Okwemba left the den at the end of last season. He had been persuaded to stay after his contract elapsed but he chose to move on. Now donning the Ushuru captain’s armband, the experienced Okwemba has a point to prove to Leopards.

If he gets the chance to play, Erick Masika will be another former Leopard who will want to prove his worth against his former employers. Masika left Ingwe at the end of last season but has struggled to get a regular starting place at Ushuru with David Otieno and Kapilima Kanamuli being favoured.

Gor Mahia v Sofapaka

They engaged each other in a hotly contested pursuit for the premier league title last season, but at the tape, K’Ogalo took home the bragging rights. The title chase was blown open in Machakos when Batoto ba Mungu beat Gor 3-2, in a fixture that would have seen Gor being crowned champions with three matches to play had they won.

But Gor had their revenge in a 2-1 season opening win in the DSTV Super Cup, and the two meet again for the second time this season on Sunday afternoon in a league match.

While Frank Nuttal’s side has been enjoying a rather comfortable start to the season, Sam Timbe’s charges have struggled. A mixed crate of results sees them occupy sixth spot with 12 points four behind the leaders Gor who have played a match less.

Sofapaka can bridge that gap if they manage to win at City Stadium, a ground that Gor enjoys an unbeaten record. Nuttal’s men can cement their lead at the top with a win but the same might be cut down if Western Stima pick up a win at the Kisumu Stadium against a wobbly Tusker.

Western Stima v Tusker FC

Francis Kimanzi is a man under pressure to see Tusker get back to its winning ways. Three matches, and the Brewers have picked up only two points out of a possible nine. Having been given the financial muscle to sign top players not only in Kenya but the East African region, Kimanzi has no reason not to deliver the title to Ruaraka this season after failing in his first calling last season.

Western Stima enjoying a decent start to the season have vowed not to drop points at home.  “We are ready for them and we want to continue with our winning streak. It will be a tricky match though but nonetheless, my boys are very motivated at the moment.” Stima Coach Henry Omino says.

Fixtures

Saturday: KCB v City Stars, AFC Leopards v Ushuru (Nyayo Stadium) .

Sunday: Chemelil Sugar v Thika United (Chemelil), Nakuru All Stars v Ulinzi Stars (Afraha), Mathare United v Sony Sugar (Nyayo Stadium), Western Stima v Tusker FC (Moi Kisumu), Gor Mahia v Sofapaka (City Stadium).