Lively KPL relegation fight as Thika win and Stima lose

By alex wafula
Nov 01, 2017
  • Gor Mahia goalkeeper Shaban Odhoji collects a ball under pressure from Western Stima’s forward Brian Marita. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Western Stima Evans Kiwanuka clears the ball from Gor Mahia’s Geoffrey Walusimbi. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Gor Mahia Francis Kahata scored one of the goals against Western Stima. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Michael Olunga is one of the three East African nominees for CAF Player of the Year. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

The lively fight for survival in the Kenyan Premier League promises to go down to the wire with three matches left.

On Wednesday, Thika United and Western Stima swapped places on the standings.

Thika United rekindled their relegation survival with a 1-0 home win over SoNy Sugar while Western Stima fell 2-1 to champions Gor Mahia in Nairobi.

Mathare United drew 0-0 with Sofapaka in Narok in a match which saw both teams finish with 10 men.

The result now means Thika United move up to 16th with 32 points, same as Mathare United but with a weaker goal difference. Western Stima move a place down to the automatic relegation zone with 31 points.

Muhoroni Youth appear to have resigned to their fate after a 2-6 loss to Bandari.

Mathare United play Muhoroni, Nzoia Sugar and Posta Rangers in their final three matches of the season while Thika United play Tusker FC, Zoo Kericho and Bandari.

Western Stima will play Ulinzi Stars and Posta Rangers in back to back home matches before finishing the season away to Chemelil Sugar.

Richard Makumbi, the new Western Stima coach is confident his charges will avoid relegation.

“It is tough but we will fight to survive. I am confident we can make it. We should have won today but at the end of the match the difference between experience and youth counted. We conceded very cheap goals under pressure,” the Ugandan said.

Stima could not hold lead

The powermen went ahead in the 17th minute through skipper Vincent Omumbo’s penalty, but could not hold the lead with Francis Kahata and Wellington Ochieng responding before halftime.

Gor Mahia gave away a cheap penalty, former Western Stima man Joash Onyango in only his second start of the season for K’Ogalo nudging former teammate Brian Marita in the back and the referee pointing straight to the spot.

On the touchline coach Dylan Kerr was irate and threw expletives at his backline who were yet to get their feet on the ground.

With no pressure on their shoulders having already won the league, K’Ogalo’s approach to the game was casual which irritated Kerr.

The Kisumu-based team’s confidence increased after going ahead and they began making more confident inroads into Gor’s half.

Four minutes after going ahead, Marita rose high unmarked at the back post to meet a Herbert Kopany cross, but his bouncing header didn’t trouble keeper Shabaan Odhoji.

Western Stima squandered a golden opportunity in the 28th minute when Onyango played his former teammate Vitalis Akumu onside from a lofted Evans Kiwanuka pass, but the Stima forward’s effort at goal went inches over with only Odhoji to beat.

That missed opportunity haunted them four minutes later when Francis Kahata picked the ball on the right and was lucky with his speculative attempt for a cross landing behind the Western Stima keeper and into the net.

Gor almost picked the second

With Western Stima still to recover from that howler, Gor almost picked the second when Meddie Kagere intercepted a back pass from Omumbo to his keeper, but the Gor forward hit the side netting after being forced wide.

Seven minutes from the breather, Gor were two up. Defender Wellington Ochieng raced in at the edge of the box to put his foot on an in-swinging delivery from a Godfrey Walusimbi freekick, the ball trickling into the net as the defense scrambled to clear.

As if Western Stima’s evening could not wait to get worse, Maurice Ojwang almost turned the ball into his own net as he tried to clear away a low cross from Ochieng but the ball went over.

In the second half Kerr made changes, bringing in rooky winger Bernard Omondi for Kahata while Timothy Otieno came on for George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo.

Jacques Tuyisenge, chasing a 13th goal of the season came close when he stretched to connect to a Walusimbi cross, but the ball went over.

Western Stima’s chances were limited and the closest they got was when Bernard Ondiek header off a Marita corner with 12 minutes left was beautifully saved by Odhoji.

Olunga nominated

In the meantime, a former Gor Mahia and Harambee Stars forward Michael Olunga is one of the three East African players shortlisted among the 30 nominees by CAF for the African Player of the Year.

The other two East Africans are Uganda’s Denis Onyango who plays for Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa and Tanzania’s Mbwana Samata who plies his trade with Genk.

The full list: Ali Maaloul (Tunisia/Al Ahly), Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso/Lyon), Cedric Bakambu (DRC/Villareal), Christian Atsu (Ghana/Newcastle), Christian Bassogog (Cameroon/Henan Jianye), Denis Onyango (Uganda/Mamelodi Sundowns), Eric Bailly (Ivory coast/Manchester United), Essam El Hadary (Egypt/Al Taawoun), Fabrice Ondoa (Cameroon/Sevilla), Fackson Kapumbu (Zambia/Zesco), Kean Michel Seri (Ivory Coast/Nice), Junior Kabananga (DRC/Astana), Karim El Ahmadi (Morocco/Feyenoord), Keita Balde (Senegal/Monaco), Khalid Boutaib (Morocco/Yeni Malatyaspor), Mbwana Samata (Tanzania/Genk), Michael Olunga (Kenya/Genoa), Mohamed Salah (Egypt/Liverpool), Moussa Marega (Mali/Porto), Naby Keita (Guinea/RB Leipzig), Percy Tau (South Africa/Mamelodi Sundowns), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon/Borussia Dortmound), Sadio Mane (Senegal/Liverpool), Thomas Partey (Ghana/Atletico Madrid), Victor Moses (Nigeria/Chelsea), Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon/Porto), William Troost-Ekong (Nigeria/Bursaspor), Yacine Brahim (Algeria/Porto), Youssef Msakni (Tunisia/Al Duhail), Yves Bissouma (Mali/Lille)

KPL midweek results

Posta Rangers 1 Kakamega Homeboyz 0, Sofapaka 0 Mathare United 0 (Narok Stadium), Chemelil Sugar 1 Tusker FC 1 (Chemelil Complex), Gor Mahia 2 Western Stima 1 (Kasarani Stadium), Muhoroni 2 Bandari 6 FC (Muhoroni), Nakumatt 1 Zoo Kericho 1 (Ruaraka Complex), Nzoia Sugar 2 AFC Leopards 0 (Mumias Complex), Ulinzi Stars 1 Kariobangi Sharks 1 (Afraha Stadium), Thika United 1 SoNy Sugar 0 (Thika Sub-County Stadium).