Spot on Owusu pops Tusker five clear at the top
Ghanaian Stephen Owusu stepped up to bury the winner from the spot as Tusker FC came from a goal down to beat Ulinzi Stars 2-1 at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium to extend their lead at the summit of the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) by five points.
The Brewers who have never bottled the soldiers after trailing went behind to Samuel Onyango’s opener after 29 minutes before they broke their Ulinzi hoodoo when Ugandan Robert Omunuk expertly guided in a low cross past James Saruni in the 70th before Owusu sealed the turnaround when he converted a penalty in the 89th.
Victory took Paul Nkata’s side to 35 points at the top of the KPL table after Tusker made capital of their closest rivals, champions Gor Mahia (30)’s slip up in Kisumu after being held to a 1-1 draw by Kakamega Homeboyz before they took to the pitch while on Saturday, Western Stima beat Mathare United (30) 1-0.
Ulinzi retained their fourth position but are pulling further adrift of challenging for the crown they last won in 2010.
In another Sunday match, league top scorer, Wycliffe Ochomo was sent off for two yellow cards as his side Muhoroni Youth shared a pulsating 2-2 draw at home to Sony Sugar.
Francis Ochola (10′) and Justin Monda (14′) traded quick-fire first half goals inside the opening quarter before Mulondwa Mwamba put Muhoroni ahead three minutes after the break.
Amos Asembeka levelled matters also from the 12-yards at the stroke of the hour before Ochomo, who has not scored in his last three received his marching orders in the 90th.
The result left the new Muhoroni coach John ‘Bobby’ Ogolla without a win since taking over from caretaker coach Tom Juma having drawn 1-1 with his former club Nairobi City Stars last weekend.
Ogolla’s charges are now perched seventh on the log on 25 while Sony are two places above the drop zone, tied on 20 with AFC Leopards and Bandari.
At Afraha, it was the Brewers who threatened first in the fourth minute when Humphrey Mieno found former AFC Leopards winger Noah Wafula in the box but the latter shot wide with goalkeeper James Saruni beaten.
Two minutes later, Saruni tipped Tusker’s Player of the Month for June Shafik Batambuze’s free kick over the bar before with quarter of an hour gone, veteran Ulinzi defender; Geoffrey Kokoyo was forced to clear out a dangerous Michael Khamati cross,
Ulinzi’s top scorer, John Mark Makwatta found Onyango on the right flank and the latter scored his first goal for Robert Matano’s side since joining from Sony by deceiving Okello in the Tusker goal with a cross cum shot.
The Brewers who had shaded play regroup and Omunuk’s cross beat Saruni but teammate Khamati could not apply the finish to an empty net as the game went in for half time 1-0 in favour of the soldiers.
Nkata who was playing the coach who last won the KPL title with Tusker in 2012 sought to beat Ulinzi’s brawn in the second half by bringing skilled midfielders Danson Kago and Ekhaliana Ndolo for Wafula and Louis Khamadi Tera.
The changes denied Matano’s side possession and pinned them back in their box and after a few offside decisions went Ulinzi’s way, Tusker snapped the high line for the equaliser in the 68th.
Batambuze chipped a delightful curling ball over the Ulinzi rearguard before Omunuk stretched to divert the ball into Saruni’s net with a deft touch as the home sides appeals for offside were waved away.
Matano hauled off Oscar Wamalwa and Ezekiel Otuoma for the former Muhoroni duo Enosh Ochieng and Daniel Waweru in a bid to reinvigorate his side but the Brewers continued to hold sway.
They duly got the winner amid controversy when Kokoyo was adjudged to have upended Kago in the box with television replays suggesting it was a soft decision from the referee who booked Saruni for spirited protests.
Owusu stepped up to fire it high to the roof of the net on the centre as Tusker atoned for their 2-0 first leg loss in Machakos to emerge with breathing space at the top.
-Additional reporting by Eric Kagunda