AFC Leopards on Sunday made a crucial break in the race for the Kenyan Premier League title when they thrashed Thika United 5-0 to open an eight point gap between themselves [Leopards] and second-placed Tusker.
Leopards overwhelmed an awestruck Thika who meekly capitulated, even scoring an own goal to add to the deluge from Charles Okwemba (a brace), Eric Masika and Laurent Tumba.
Even though Tusker [36 points] have three matches in hand, from which they could earn points and take a point’s lead over Leopards [44 points], Leopards clearly sit in comfort.
The Brewers who were absent from League action during their recent poor appearance at the Cecafa Kagame Club Cup tournament in Tanzania, must first overcome Sofapaka, Mathare United and Sony Sugar to close the gap.
Elsewhere, Rangers hoisted themselves off the relegation slots with a 1-0 away win at Karuturi Sports while Muhoroni Youth were pinned to the 15th place by Sony Sugar who won 1-0 at Gusii Stadium. Ulinzi Stars edged Nairobi City Stars 2-1 at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru.
AFC Leopards 5 Thika United 0
Leopards showed too much commitment and skill by several players to run off the pitch a Thika United side that may seem, by the score line, not to have tried.
The usual danger men for Leopards upfront, Mike Baraza and Allan Wanga, played their part but that they were not the ones on the sheet in such a high scoring match reminded everyone how strong in resources Leopards are.
Charles Okwemba, usually a contented creator from the middle of the park, this time found himself with the space and aimed accurately for a brace. First, he powered in a header after 15 minutes from a Bernard Mang’oli ball from the left flank.
Then when Leopards were already 3-0 up, Okwemba converted for the fourth and his second of the day.
Eric Masika had sent Leopards 2-0 into the break with a 41st minute goal from a goalmouth scramble, chesting in the final ball from Okwemba.
Thika United tried everything to steady their ship and claw their way back into contention, including bringing in Kepha Aswani, their goal scorer who was impressive in the first half of the season.
But Thika would continue struggling, the front running of Wanga and Baraza always difficult to contain.
In fact, from the pressure, defender Simon Mbugua conceded an own goal in the 76th minute as he misjudged a cross from Wanga, sliding the ball into the Thika net in the 76th minute to give Leopards a 3-0 lead.
After Okwemba made it 4-0, the scoring would not end until almost in the final whistle when substitute Laurent Tumba made it 5-0.
Leopards coach Jan Koops said his defence had continued to perform brilliantly, not letting in a single goal in six fixtures -- the entire second leg -- the last being in the 1-1 draw with Sony Sugar on June 20.
He said players’ competition because of a good “bench” had made everybody work harder.
AFC LEOPARDS - 1. Patrick Matasi: 5. Edwin Wafula, 17. Jonas Nahimana, 40. Eric Masika, 46. Idrissa Rajab, 4. Martin Imbalambala (captain), 10. Charles Okwemba, 22. Bernard Mang’oli, 9. Allan Wanga, 18. Floribert Ndayisaba Tambwe, 11. Mike Baraza
Reserves - 19. Barnabas Tiema, Gk; 26. Robert Syongo, 3. Abbasi Kiwalabye, 30. Samuel “Misse” Mwangi, 12. Augustine Etemesi, 7. Oscar Kadenge, 8. Laurent Tumba
Scorers – 10. Charles Okwemba (16’ 86’), 40. Eric Masika (41’), 8. Laurent Tumba (90’)
Coach - Jan Koops [The Netherlands]
THIKA UNITED - 22. Lucas Indeche: 31. Simon Mbugua, 32. Morris Dukuly, 35. Dirkir Glay, 12. Vincent Nyaberi (captain), 4. Dennis Odhiambo, 26. Michael Alubisi, 40. Francis Kahata, 2. Clifton Miheso, 20. Moses Arita, John Nairuka
Reserves - 23. John Njenga, Gk; 6. Michael Bodo, 7. Kennedy Otieno, 13. Joseph Kuria, 28. Tony Kizito, 19. Kepha Aswani, 15. Geoffrey Muhando
Scorer - 31. Simon Mbugua (76’, own goal)
Coach - James Omondi
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Referee - Nasur Doka
Assistant ref - Jane Cherono
Asst ref - Peter Sabatia
Reserve ref - David Gikonyo
Mach commissioner - Samuel Omwoyo
Ulinzi Stars 2 Nairobi City Stars 1
Anthony Nderitu converted an 18th minute penalty off a handball call to give Ulinzi Stars a1-0 lead at Afraha.
But Bruno Serunkuma had Nairobi City Stars level in the 29th minute.
Then in the 68th, Joseph Okello scored off a long throw-in for a valuable 2-1 win which kept Ulinzi, at fourth place, in touch with the title chasers.
Karuturi Sports 0 Rangers 1
Rangers found the breakthrough in the 74th minute when Baldwin Ngwa pounced on a defensive error and laid on a pass to burly midfielder Eric Muranda to fire in from 18 yards.
Karuturi Sports had started strongly with new Ugandan import Zzinde Hussein a constant threat to the visitors, who held out through some good defense organization revolving around ex-Kenya international Julius “Awillo” Owino.
But Rangers ought to have scored on 30 minutes when Ngwa went past Samuel Olare but shot wide when with just the ‘keeper, Michael Wanyika to beat.
Sony Sugar 1 Muhoroni Youth 0
Ishmael Dunga again came to the Sony Sugar rescue, scoring in the 30th minute for an important win for his team over Muhoroni Youth at the Gusii Stadium.
Sony eased into 10th please as they seek to keep off a relegation battle which is of concern to teams as high as in the seventh place.
Only 11 points separate the seventh placed team and the bottom side Oserian, on 16 points.
RESULTS & FIXTURES:
Thursday, Aug 9:
Rangers 0-0 AFC Leopards
Gor Mahia 3 [4-0] 0 Tusker, [KPL ‘Top 8’ tournament semi-final, leg two]
Friday, Aug 10:
KCB 0-0 Chemelil Sugar
Saturday, Aug 11:
Oserian 0-0 Western Stima
Sunday, Aug 12:
Ulinzi Stars 2-1 Nairobi City Stars
Karuturi Sports 0-1 Rangers
AFC Leopards 5-0 Thika United
Sony Sugar 1-0 Muhoroni
Monday, Aug 13:
7.00pm: (3)Sofapaka v (6)Gor Mahia [International Sports Centre] * TV
Tuesday, Aug 14:
7.00pm: (12)Mathare United v (2)Tusker [National Stadium] * TV
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Eugene ASIKE [Sofapaka] five (5) yellow cards, to miss match No. 168, Sofapaka v Gor Mahia, Kasarani, TV