NAIROBI, Kenya- Ten-man Gor Mahia FC started life without Brazilian Jose Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira by crashing to a 0-2 defeat away to Sofapaka FC on Sunday that paved way for champions Tusker FC to return to the top of the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) standings.
The Brewers lead the standings on 28 points after battling to a barren draw on the road to Kariobangi Sharks FC on a day Kakamega Homeboyz FC and Zoo Kericho FC shared a goal-fest in a stirring 3-3 draw in Mumias.
Western Stima FC send 2008 champions Mathare United to the bottom of the log following their 0-0 stalemate in Mombasa against Bandari FC while the 1-1 draw between Ulinzi Stars FC and visiting Sony Sugar FC pushed the soldiers to third on the log.
The SPL round 14 clash between Muhoroni Youth FC and Nakumatt FC was postponed indefinitely.
Despite the morale-sapping defeat, K’Ogalo who are chasing a record 16th crown remain second a point adrift of the Brewers with Ulinzi and fourth-placed Posta Rangers FC tied at 25 but separated on goal-difference.
The Green Army supporters travelled to Meru to cheer on the record title winners at the Kinoru Stadium but the 2009 SPL winners Sofapaka had not read the script.
After recruiting heavily in the June transfer window, Sam Ssimbwa’s side took only eight minutes to nose ahead when Ezekiel Okare put them ahead, an advantage they held on to the break.
Batoto ba Mungu then put the game beyond the reach of Gor in the 50th when Timothy Luda fired in the second to seal the victory that saw Sofapaka move to fifth on 23 points.
It was not the start Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno- the 1995 title-winning K’Ogalo captain- wished on his first outing since taking charge of Gor following the resignation of Ze Maria who has found a new home in Albania’s FK Tirana.
Gor had started the match the stronger side as Meddie Kagere and Timothy Otieno paired well to launch several attacks and put Sofapaka custodian Mathias Kigonya under the cosh in the opening five minutes.
But the home side quickly struck back under the leadership of seasoned Hillary Echesa who was handed the armband on his debut and he was key in setting up the opener for Okare.
Gor hit back with Kagere and Mike Simiyu coming close but the could not fashion the equaliser before the break and found themselves further behind only five minutes after the interval when Luda pounced on a rebound to beat Boniface Oluoch for 2-0.
Things took a turn for the worse for the SPL giants when their captain Musa Mohammed was sent off in the 82nd effectively ending any lingering hopes they had of getting something from the game.
The result allowed Tusker to inch to the summit when they emerged with a point from their visit to Sharks at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
Influential midfielder Humphrey Mieno was forced off from the match an awkward tumble that left his leg twisted with Tusker Head Coach Paul Nkaka calling Brian Osumba off the bench in the 40th to take his place.
Keiphas Mutuu was the toast of Homeboyz with a hat-trick when Homeboyz and Zoo shared a crazy first half that saw the sides go in for the break level at 3-3.
It took Mutuu only three minutes to open his account only for Geoffrey Gichana to cancel out his strike in the seventh.
The Homeboyz attacker notched his brace in the 12th but once again Zoo struck back for 2-2 in the 35th through Isaac Kipyegon.
A mad ending of the opening stanza saw Mutuu and Sammy Okoth trade goals within a minute of each other in what was a thrill for the fans present but a nightmare for coaches Mike Mururi and visiting boss Sammy Okoth.
The tacticians altered their formations as the teams came for the second half, taking the sting out of the contest as they settled for a share of the spoils at the final whistle.
At the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru, Amos Asembeka stunned home side Ulinzi when he headed Sony ahead in the 22nd and the visitors held on to their lead at the break.
The military men fought back through their danger man Stephen Waruru who swept home the equaliser for his eighth league goal of the season after the Sony keeper spilled a Samuel Onyango cross into his path.
At the Mbaraki Stadium, in Mombasa, hosts Bandari settled for a barren draw with Stima in a cagey match that did not inspire confidence.
SPL ROUND 14 RESULTS
AFC Leopards 0 – 0 Mathare United
Chemelil Sugar 2 – 1 Nzoia Sugar FC
Thika United 2 – 2 Posta Rangers
Bandari 0 – 0 Western Stima
Kakamega Homeboyz 3 – 3 Zoo FC
Kariobangi Sharks 0 – 0 Tusker FC
Sofapaka 2 – 0 Gor Mahia
Ulinzi Stars 1 – 1 Sony Sugar