NAIROBI, Kenya- With the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) SportPesa News bouquets already handed out, it is the time to dish out the barbs with Mathare United FC becoming the latest side to see their unbeaten record breached on Saturday.
That left champions Gor Mahia FC who extended their lead to five-points after the Slum Boys came off the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller as the only side without an ‘L’ blotting their run so far in what will surely raise doubts over the ability of the challengers to dethrone the record 16-time winners.
Without much ado; the round six losers are;
Kenyan Premier League
The allure and beauty of any league is intense competition but with only six out of the 34 rounds gone, the 2018 KPL already feels like a procession to crown Gor as the undisputed club kings of the land once more-it would be a staggering fifth title in six seasons.
Facing 2016 National Super League runaway champions, Nzoia Sugar FC, who have had a nightmare start to their second season following their return to the top-flight, Gor boss, Dylan Kerr, had the luxury of fielding a squad that had only Boniface Omondi and Shaban Odhoji as the only players at the club last season.
Credit should go to the Briton who has rotated his team wisely with a manic start to the campaign with only four of his 29 players in the squad yet to feature this term but it is a sorry indictment of the competition as a whole that their opponents are fast disappearing through the K’Ogalo rear-view mirror.
Nzoia were the latest to bow to their might with the skipper of the day, Kevin Omondi scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory. All pre-season talk of rank challengers, Sofapaka FC, Tusker FC, AFC Leopards SC and Ulinzi Stars FC among others of threatening the Gor dynasty seem to be hot air at the moment but in football, things can take a dramatic turn in a trice so, for the sake of competition, let us hope the 2018 KPL title race is all done and dusted yet.
It does not help that four games on Saturday ended goalless; including 2016 champions Tusker and 2009 winners Sofapaka who fired blanks at home to Thika United FC and away to Kariobangi Sharks FC in that order.
Having started the season with a mean defence, to concede four in a single game; especially after the effervescent Chris Nyakeya notched a first half brace to fashion a lead against resurgent AFC Leopards SC, must have miffed Mathare boss Francis Kimanzi to no end.
Kimanzi has forged a reputation as being a tactical chess master and while the Slum Boys can argue the torrential rainfall impeded their free-flowing football, the manner in which they allowed Leopards to claw their way back and complete the turnaround with a Marvin Nabwire stunner can at best be described as organisational indiscipline.
Remember, they faced an Ingwe side still reeling from the turmoil of suspending their head coach, Francis Kimanzi and midfielder, Collins ‘Gatusso’ Okoth who was accused on Friday of threatening to kill a journalist piling more woe at the Den.
Mathare were pushed down to fourth (11 points) from second following their first defeat but Kimanzi needs to batten his side’s hatches soon if they are to avoid his side slipping into another scrap for survival following what is nonetheless a solid start.
Having led Chemelil Sugar FC to a league high fifth finish in 2014, the former Harambee Stars midfielder saw his 2015 unravel at the sugar millers who fired him after a poor string of results threatened the club with relegation, with Hillary Ouma appointed as his stand in as the club went on to finish 13th, only six points above the relegation zone.
Mururi was then hired by Kakamega Homeboyz ahead of the 2016 season and promptly led them to an eighth finish before doing even better last term when he took them to fifth, a record for the team.
The results saw the once self-supported team whose solo benefactor was Kakamega-based businessman, Cleophas ‘Toto’ Shimanyula adopted by the County Government of Kakamega, affording Mururi high profile signings of Harambee Stars forward, Allan Wanga and utility James Situma among others.
Three losses in six matches later that have seen Homeboyz slide down to 10th on the log- with visiting Ulinzi inflicting a second successive defeat when they toppled them 1-0 on Sunday-suggest that Mururi, who is accustomed to managing squads of modest means with low expectations to match, is struggling to operate his new expensive toys.
Sony Sugar FC
Bandari FC were the latest team to blow Salim Babu and his charges off the park when they thumped them 3-0 at Mbaraki Sports Complex in Mombasa having surrendered to a 2-0 defeat to Leopards in the fifth round.
Having recovered from opening day defeat to promoted Wazito FC to win their next two, Sony who battled to remain in the league are facing another fight to avoid the drop but unlike the seven teams below them on the table, notably Tusker, they have a solid platform to entrench themselves in mid table if only they can stop soaking in the goals.
In 2016, Tusker hired Ugandan Paul Nkata and went on to reclaim the league title they won last in 2012. At the end of the season, Nkata left and compatriot George ‘Best’ Nsimbe came on board to take charge of last term and after their title defence collapsed, former Chemelil coach, Francis Baraza was brought in to stable the rudder at the Ruaraka based giants.
Baraza made no secret of his desire to be handed the role on full-time basis but another Ugandan, Sam Timbe, was brought in to take charge with the Kenyan who recruited most of the players reverting back to his assistant role.
Talk of unrest and Baraza’s suspension were rife and the team now finds itself languishing 12th with only six points, already 10 adrift of the side they set their sights on dethroning at the top.
The massive clear-out of the senior players said to have been elements of unrest at the team has not solved anything at current evidence and heads are about to roll at the famously trigger-happy club. Perhaps its time for them to end their Ugandan experiment.
At least they will take comfort with the fact that the 2017 National Super League winners, Vihiga United FC are also having a rotten run of it in the top flight this term but being bottom on their second campaign in the KPL was not exactly what they foresaw at the start of the campaign.
Zoo Kericho FC who were also promoted this term are only a point above last place with Wazito who joined KPL this term are two above Nzoia. Alongside recent perennial strugglers Thika; these clubs will form the fulcrum of the race to avoid the trapdoor unless form is picked up soon.