Tusker FC stormed back to the summit of the Kenyan Premier League standings after a 2-1 victory over Western Stima at the Ruaraka Complex on Wednesday evening, on a day that fellow contenders Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards both dropped points.
Defending champions Gor remained third after a 0-0 draw with Wazito FC while AFC were beaten 1-0 by relegation fighting Mathare United to stay at fourth spot.
For Tusker, they now move two points clear of KCB who play on Saturday when they face Kakamega Homeboyz in Nakuru. If they drop points and Tusker go on to win against Ulinzi Stars next Wednesday, then the brewers will earn a ticket to play continental football next season.
Due to CAF restrictions and timelines, the Football Kenya Federation announced that whichever team which will sit top of the table by June 30 will earn a ticket to play in the CAF Champions League next season.
For Tusker, they now hope that other teams do them a favour to secure continental football.
“We are just taking a match at a time. We are glad to have won this one and it now eases pressure on us. We had a good game but we should have scored more with the chances we had. But the most important thing is the three points,” Tusker FC coach Robert Matano said.
Jumping into the Stima game beaming with confidence, Tusker were brighter starters and had good chances to score in the opening half an hour. As early as the third minute, the brewers were already causing Stima problems.
Henry Meja controlled the ball inside the box, setting up skipper Hashim Sempala, but his shot flew just wide. Meja again teed up Chris Onyango inside the box, but the latter couldn’t also hit the target.
Stima were playing on the break, with Tusker pinning them in their own half. They should have had a goal on one of their rare forays upfront when Baron Oketch broke away on the left. He slid in a low cross into the box, but an advancing Michael Karamor could not tap the ball on target at the far post.
Almost immediately, the powermen had another chance off a counter. Oketch broke away on the left before shooting low. However, Tusker keeper Michael Wanjala made a good full stretched save to turn the ball behind for a corner.
With no goals in the opening half despite bossing the possession, Tusker made changes at the break with a shake in midfield. Humphrey Mieno was introduced to bring in some creativity while Boniface Muchiri came on to man the wings.
And just 10 minutes in, Muchiri’s introduction bore fruit when he stepped up on a freekick after he was fouled at the edge of the box. He curled the ball beyond the wall and past a dazed Richard Aimo in Stima’s goal.
Seven minutes later, Muchiri bore the second goal when he was brought down inside the box. Meja stepped up to take the resultant penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way to double Tusker’s lead.
But, Stima never gave up the surge and keeper Wanjala was forced to work in the 72nd minute tipping behind Oketch’s effort from a freekick behind for a corner. But, 10 minutes to time, Stima got the goal they yearned for.
A foul inside the box resulted in a penalty and Oketch stepped forward to score and halve the deficit. Stima pushed to get an equalizer, Tusker defending desperately. They however managed to hold on for the win.
In the late kick off, Eugene Wethuli scored at the stroke of halftime as Mathare United revived their hopes of survival with only their second win of the season.
Wethuli slid the nall beneath keeper Benjamin Ochan off a swiftly executed counter attack. John Mwangi broke away before putting Wethuli through on goal, the latter doing the easiest task of tapping the ball home.
In the second half, Mathare should have sealed the win when some quick thinking from Daniel Otieno in the 57th minute saw him take a throw in to Mwangi to put him one on one with Ochan, but the striker could not hit the target.
Leopards had good chances to score, but it was just never their day. Keeper Job Ochieng made a brilliant save to tip over Elvis Rupia’s header before the striker hit the woodwork with a well taken shot inside the box.
Back to back, AFC had more chances but keeper Ochieng was stute. He made a good point blank save to deny Said Tsuma’s shot before keeping Rupia’s header out again, off a Robinson Kamura cross.