Vihiga United in unchartered waters as GOtv Shield reaches semis

By alex wafula
Sep 22, 2017
  • Vihiga United Patrick Okullo tussles with Ushuru's Bebeto Hwamba in a previous match. (SNA. File Photo)

Vihiga United are keen to stop an all Kenya Premier League affair in the GOtv Shield final when they tackle AFC Leopards in the semis on Sunday afternoon in Nakuru.

The National Super League leaders who beat defending champions Tusker FC 2-0 in the quarter-finals are confident of completing another upset over the 2013 champions.

Edward Manoah, the Vihiga United coach is confident his team has what it takes to realise this dream.

“They are a big team and we should be ready for a tough game. But we are going there to play our game and win. It is anybody’s game but our focus is getting into the final,” the tactician, formerly with Chemelil Sugar told Sports News Arena.

Vihiga have claimed two Premier League casualties on their way to the semi-finals. After beating Elim 7-0 in the first round, they needed post-match penalties to go past Ushuru in the second round, winning 4-2 after a 0-0 stalemate.

In the round of 16, the NSL leaders once again waited on the penalty lottery before seeing off neighbors Kakamega Homeboyz 5-4.

Their quarter final win was even sweeter as they struck two without response against holders Tusker.

“It is a good run we have had more so because we have not conceded any goal from open play and that gives us a bit of confidence. We have beaten two Premier League clubs but to us that is history. This is a new challenge that is coming ahead of us,” Manoah added.

No easy outing

AFC Leopards coach Robert Matano conceded that it will be no easy outing. He was incharge of Ulinzi who lost in the final last year.

“Every team which is at the semi-final stage is a strong team. We cannot underrate anyone and we will go there to fight and get to the final. That is our ultimate goal,” he stated.

Both teams have a clean bill of health going into their first ever competitive meeting.

Vihiga United will rely on the goal scoring prowess of Chris Masinza who is the second best top scorer in the GOtv Shield with four goals.

In an early kick off, Kariobangi Sharks who were eliminated in the semis last season will face SoNy Sugar. who have won three matches on the trot back in the KPL.

They have beaten AFC Leopards and Tusker FC in two of those.

On the way to the finals, SoNy has seen off three Premier League opponents. They beat last year’s finalists Ulinzi Stars in the round of 32.

Then Nzoia Sugar in the round of 16 and enroute the semis, they beat 2014 champions Bandari at their backyard in Mombasa.

Kariobangi Sharks lost last year’s semi 4-1 to Ulinzi Stars and coach William Muluya is eager to go one better.

“It is a very tricky game because if you look at SoNy, they are in good form. We cannot dwell so much on what happened last year but I can say it is motivation enough for us as we prepare for SoNy. We want to improve,” Muluya noted.

Mixed fortune

They come into the match with some mixed fortune of form, having drawn two and lost two of their last four KPL matches.

SoNy will be ‘fresher’ because they did not play in the midweek while Muluya’s men were involved in a tough match against Posta Rangers which ended in a 2-2 draw.

The teams will be meeting for the third time this season. In the home and away league, Kariobangi Sharks won the first leg 2-0 in Nairobi and drew the second 0-0 in Awendo.

Meanwhile, while the four teams jostle up for a place in the GOtv Shield final, action will continue in the KPL, biggest on the bill being the relegation fight.

The recent ruling by the High Court that nullified the 18-team league has put clubs under pressure especially looking ahead to the promotion and demotion next season.

But that notwithstanding, Ruaraka will host the biggest relegation battlefield when Thika United play against Posta Rangers while Mathare United face Ulinzi Stars. Thika United are 16th on the log with 22 points.

Nicholas Muyoti, the Thika coach will welcome back striker Onwudi Chibueze for the tie after missing the last one month of action. His presence could inspire the team to the first victory in five matches.

“We have been playing well but our forward line has been the problem. I have been forced to use wide players in central striking and it has been a challenge. Hopefully Chibueze’s arrival will spur us,” the tactician explained.

Thika United have collected only two points off a possible 15 in their last five games.

Mathare complicate survival chances

Meanwhile, Mathare United who are one spot above Thika United at 14th have lost back to back matches against Tusker FC and Kariobangi Sharks, complicating their hope of survival.

A defiant Francis Kimanzi, the Mathare United head coach is confident that relegation is in the least of their worries.

They will not have beautiful memories of meeting up with Ulinzi, the side that beat them 5-1 the last time they met at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru.

Ulinzi, with some title hopes could bridge the gap between them and leaders Gor Mahia who will be taking on defending champions Tusker FC in Kisumu.

Gor dropped points last weekend, drawing 0-0 with Thika United while Tusker FC are on a resurgence after picking their third win in a row on Wednesday.

K’Ogalo were not involved in the midweek action and coach Dylan Kerr has had plenty of time to work on his charges ahead of the crucial tie.

KPL weekend fixtures (All games kick off 3 p.m. unless stated)

Saturday: Posta Rangers v Thika United (2 p.m.), Mathare United v Ulinzi Stars (Ruaraka Complex, 4 p.m.), Kakamega Homeboyz v Sofapaka (Mumias), Gor Mahia v Tusker FC (Moi Stadium, Kisumu).

Sunday: Bandari v Chemelil Sugar (Mbaraki), Western Stima v Nakumatt (Moi Stadium, Kisumu), Zoo Kericho v Nzoia Sugar (Kericho). GOtv Shield: Kariobangi Sharks v Sony Sugar (12 p.m.), AFC Leopards v Vihiga United (Afraha Stadium, Nakuru 2 p.m.).