'Fatigued' Ulinzi have a slight edge against high-flying Sofapaka

By alex wafula
Sep 12, 2021
  • Ulinzi Stars who have played six matches in two weeks face second-placed Sofapaka in Kericho. (SNA. File Photo)

  • Sofapaka who were on the brink of relegation last season have become title contenders after the arrival of Sam Ssimbwa. (SNA. File Photo)

  • Zoo Kericho have another stab at Tusker FC after 'winning' the first leg as a result of a board room decision when Tusker FC failed to avail player cards in the first leg. (SNA. File Photo)

Fatigue could be a key determining factor when Ulinzi travel to Kericho Green Stadium for a match against Sofapaka.

They arrived in the country last Wednesday night from a tough East Africa Military Games campaign and made a long trip to Muhoroni where they drew before returning to Nakuru.

Barely a day in training, the team has its home match moved to Kericho.The match had initially been set for Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium but was moved to Kericho due to the unavailability of the pitch.

“It is a challenge for us but I hope the players can cope because those are six matches we are playing in a space of two weeks and then add travelling to it. We have to cope,” Ben Nyangweso, the Ulinzi coach stated.

Sofapaka who have won four matches out of five have cautioned Ulinzi Stars to expect a tough tie. 

Ulinzi Stars won the first leg 1-0 in Machakos and Batoto ba Mungu are keen to repay in kind and narrow the gap between them and leaders Gor Mahia.

John Baraza, the Sofapaka assistant coach is aware of the tough challenge against the soldiers.

“Ulinzi is always a tough team. But we are in good form because the team has gelled. The first leg, we weren’t very compact as a unit but now, it is not going to be easy for them,” Baraza stated.

Slight head to head edge

The military side has a slight head to head edge over Sofapaka over their last 17 Kenyan Premier League meetings, Ulinzi having won six and Sofapaka five. But they are winless over their last five league assignments.

“We drew last weekend and that was not good for our title ambitions but considering the point came off a ground that we normally struggle, we have to take it in. Sofapaka is a tough test but the team is in good rhythm and hopefully we can go in for a win,” Nyangweso hinted.

Sofapaka are six points behind leaders Gor Mahia who host Chemelil Sugar in Kisumu on Thursday.

“We want to push it to the end and see what we can get. But we are not under pressure that is what makes it easy for us,” Baraza noted.

They will be relying on the red hot form of Umaru Kassumba, their Ugandan striker who has scored nine goals so far despite having joined the team in June.

Meanwhile, Posta Rangers will be back at the Ruaraka Complex to face bottom side Muhoroni Youth.

Sammy Omollo, the Posta Rangers head coach has urged his players to get back to winning ways. Posta have not won their last five games.

“Muhoroni might be down there on the table, but they are not a team to be taken lightly. We have to come back to ourselves and play like we did in the first half of the season. We have not performed well in the second leg and I think it’s time the players realized we have to wake up. The league is tough,” Omollo said.

The first leg tie between the two sides ended 1-1 and this will be the sixth meeting between the two. Of the previous five, Posta has beaten Muhoroni only once.

Relegation zone

The sugar millers are dangling dangerously on the relegation zone, perched bottom with 19 points, seven off safety.

Coach James Omondi knows the boys are under pressure with 12 rounds of matches remaining.

“For now, every point counts. We picked one against Ulinzi over the weekend and now we have to go away and ensure we pick at least one. We have to play each match like it is a final because we are in real danger,” the tactician said.

In a late kick off, defending champions Tusker FC will face Zoo Kericho. The champions won the first leg 2-0 away in Kericho but Zoo Kericho appealed because Tusker FC played without player cards and the result was overturned in favor of the league new boys.

But first leg issues aside, Tusker FC is under pressure having lost three of their last five matches.

Their weekend 2-0 loss to SoNy Sugar away piled more pressure on coach George Nsimbe whose side was knocked out of the GOtv Shield.

KPL midweek fixtures (all games kick off 3 p.m. unless stated)

Western Stima v Kakamega Homeboyz (Moi Stadium Kisumu), Mathare United v Kariobangi Sharks (Narok), Nzoia Sugar v Bandari (Sudi, Bungoma), Thika United v Nakumatt (Thika), Posta Rangers v Muhoroni Youth (2 p.m.), Tusker FC v Zoo Kericho (4 p.m.- Ruaraka Complex), AFC Leopards v SoNy Sugar (2 p.m.), Ulinzi Stars v Sofapaka (4 p.m.- Kericho Stadium).

Thursday: Gor Mahia v Chemelil Sugar (Moi Stadium).