Western Stima through to Super 8 Final

May 26, 2011

They did it again. Henry Omino’s momentum men turned on the battling spirit, eliminating star-studded Sofapaka to reach the Final of the Kenyan Premier League “Top 8” tournament. 

It ended 2-2 at the National Stadium on Wednesday night, but in the semi-final tie over two legs on the same venue, the second leg was an “away” fixture for Western Stima who had held Sofapaka 1-1 in the opening game.

Stima knew they had to at least score and then avoid defeat to, on the “away" goal rule, book a place in the final with Kenya champions Ulinzi Stars, who must be awarded victory after their second leg tie with Gor Mahia was abandoned due to crowd trouble with Ulinzi leading 1-0 in aggregate [ruling has yet to be made by the KPL’s Independent Disciplinary Committee].

Stima coach, Omino said in the pre-match interview that they would go for an early goal since circumstances dictated they would have to score.

Francis Chinjili missed a gilt-edged chance in just two minutes. In the box, six yards from the ‘keeper, the bulky Stima striker incredibly failed to connect a ball from George Wesa. A lurking Wesley Kemboi would also have assisted Chinjili if he kept cool, but didn’t.

However, Chinjili was to become a main performer for Stima throughout the match. His imprint was firmly on the match after the sixth minute opening goal he majestically created from the edge of the box on the left flank.

He controlled the pass, pulled back to escape the two defenders, before firing powerfully past Zachary Onyango in the Sofapaka goal.

Sofapaka responded with Titus Mulama scoring in the 12th minute, the veteran Kenya midfielder managing to reach with a lunge, the ball from a Bob Mugalia cross from the right.

But Stima’s commitment was brilliant, controlling a midfield battle where Sofapaka were pressed and harried. No wonder it got them into some nerve. Their king pin, the Uganda international Musa Mudde was first shown a yellow card after retaliating in a shoving brawl with Wesa. Then Mudde made a studs-up strike at Stima veteran forward Mark Sirengo and the second yellow had the Ugandan taking a walk in the 35th minute.

However, it was Sofapaka who went into the lead when left full-back John Njoroge fired with his left from 30 metres and the ball awkwardly bounced in front of Stima ‘keeper David Juma, and then into goal in the 38th minute.

Before the break John Baraza missed two good chances for Sofapaka and his team looked like it would cope with being a man down.

But Stima, who since knocking out big name Tusker in the opening round of the “Top 8” tournament had said they relished at the prospect of winning the Sh1 million prize money, kept up their never-say-die buccaneering runs at Sofapaka.

Eventually, Sirengo from the edge of the box on the left flank floated in a ball that was heading for ‘keeper Onyango’s far post. Second half substitute Ali Bai was amazingly left unattended and made a fool of a despairing Njoroge to easily head home.

From then on a dark cloud seemed to descend on Sofapaka yet again; the CAF Confederation Cup fourth round contestants unable to cope in another domestic tussle.

At the beginning of the tournament, the Stima boys had said they reveled at the possibility of staying in the tournament till the end, as they would enjoy the aeroplane rides in-and-out of Nairobi in the KPL all-expenses paid tournament. 

Stima will have one more flight from Kisumu to Nairobi would bring the possibility of flying back home carrying a million shillings.

“I feel great. We wanted to at least be in the final and am happy we have made it,” said Stima coach Omino.

“We started offensively and it paid off with an early goal. After that, when we were behind, we knew we had to make it 2-2 and that’s what we got.”

Sofapaka’s Kimanzi rued what he called very bad fortunes and he said they were now to focus on their CAF Confederation Cup fourth round, first leg match with Club Africain in Tunisia on Sunday. 

“The red card [to Mudde] was a real blow… too early,” he said.

“We lost the match not because Stima threatened us. Their second goal came from no pressure at all.”