NAIROBI, Kenya- The third round of the 2018 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) saw only two sides- Sony Sugar FC and Nakumatt FC- record victories in what was a low scoring affair.
Sony and Nakumatt registered identical 1-0 victories at home to Zoo Kericho FC and away to Nzoia United FC, the teams who are enjoying their second season in the top flight nestled at the foot of the standings having lost twice.
Here are the SportPesa News winners and losers of round three.
Sony and Nakumatt
The retailers who started the season facing uncertainty with the financial struggles facing their parent partners, Nakumatt Holdings came away from a tough trip at Sudi Stadium with maximum points after new signing Brian Nyakan scored the only goal against Nzoia.
It is still early to tell whether they will hang on to the top flight but a win, a draw and a loss in their opening three games lays a solid platform for survival for the 10th ranked side.
On Sunday, Sony, who were aggrieved in their opening day loss to new boys Wazito FC have since recovered to win their second game on the bounce, the hapless Zoo their latest victims as the 2006 champions rose to third in the nascent KPL table. Salim Babu and his charges can look forward to a rewarding season based on their early promise.
With three goals conceded on Saturday and another on Sunday, the seven games of round three produced an average of a goal in every 157.5 minutes of football.
It is not what fans pay or turn out to stadiums to witness but defences clearly came out on top as the top flight reverted back to ‘normal’ after a goal-laden round one (23) and round two (15).
Gor Mahia FC
With attention fixed on their CAF Champions League preliminary round return leg fixture against Leones Vegetarianos in Equatorial Guinea, the KPL titleholders sat out domestic duties but will not be concerned by what they saw in their absence.
With two victories in two opening games against Nakumatt and Zoo, scoring four goals apiece in each, K’Ogalo are second on the log, a point adrift early pacesetters Mathare United FC with a game in hand.
No wonder some are already saying they should be handed the trophy.
Mathare United FC
Having battled relegation until the final four rounds of 2017, the 2008 title winners lost their perfect record in their barren draw away to Ulinzi Stars FC but there was no arguing it was a point gained at the home of one of the KPL titans.
Francis Kimanzi and his rejuvenated Slum Boys created enough chances to turn a point into three in the first half but after a stuttering start, Robert Mboya once again proved his importance to Mathare with another set of outstanding saves to shut up shop.
With other giants around them failing to get off the blocks, Mathare could well be the early contenders to challenge Gor for the crown at this rate.
Having sat out the weekend, Gor’s Meddie Kagere still leads the top scorers’ charts with his opening round hat-trick against Nakumatt. Nyakan joined seven other players on two for the season, bringing the average below a goal a game.
The lack of striking talent has been the curse of the KPL for a number of seasons, with Masoud Juma who has since left Sharks top scoring with 17 last season. The last forward to hit the 20 mark was Allan Wanga way back in 2007 and the record for a domestic season of 26 set by Gor legend, Moses ‘Sonyi’ Ochieng in 1976 still remains.
On current evidence, the records will roll into another year.
In the modern era where football is driven by television money, the KPL is still struggling to nail down a broadcast partner despite promises made by authorities in their bid to plug the huge hole left by the exit of South African outfit, SuperSport.
Since then, the deal with Bamba Sport that also comes with screening National Super League games brings crumbs compared to what the KPL made from SuperSport and attempts to rope in the Chinese based StarTimes came a cropper ahead of the season.
“We want to ensure many Kenyans watch the league on as many Free to Air channels as possible for a start.
“Once we popularize it to the Kenyan masses, we will package the product and sell it to the most suitable Free To Air Channel on an exclusive basis,” Elly Kalekwa, KPL Vice Chairman and Chairman of the KPL Marketing and Sponsorship Committee said in a statement last week.
However, indications are the said FTA’s are not convinced about paying for exclusive rights to KPL games leading to the circus we are witnessing at the moment where games are shifted from one channel to another.
How long the KPL will be able to sustain this arrangement without an official partner in light of the huge production costs involved remains to be seen.
Nzoia and Zoo
Three games, three loses apiece. Having had time to acquaint themselves with the rigours of the KPL last season, one expected the 2016 second division high-flyers to be better equipped to mount a sustainable challenge this term.
Indeed, Zoo produced the KPL Most Valuable Player in Michael Madoya but he has not been able to inspire a fight despite scoring in their 2-4 crushing home loss to Gor.
There is still time for Nzoia and Zoo to gain a foothold in the competition but they will be watching with envy as newly promoted Vihiga and Wazito as well as Thika United FC who survived by a whisker hover above them on the standings.
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