NAIROBI, Kenya- SportPesa Premier League (SPL) champions, Tusker FC and Kariobangi Sharks FC huffed and puffed to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday in the highlight midweek top flight clash at the Ruaraka Grounds in Nairobi.
Elsewhere, there was late drama when relegation threatened Western Stima FC were denied a much-needed victory at the death by Nakumatt FC while Zoo Kericho FC rallied to force a 2-2 draw at the Kericho Green Stadium against visiting Nzoia Sugar FC via another equaliser in the closing stages of the match.
The barren stalemate at Ruaraka saw Sharks (41) fail to leapfrog Ulinzi Stars FC (42) to fourth with the Brewers (40) remaining seventh on the same tally with Posta Rangers FC in sixth but trailing on goal-difference having played a game less.
Nzoia (39) are below them as Zoo (33) and Nakumatt (32) remained stuck in 13th and 14th on the table. Stima (27) rued missing out on climbing above 16th-placed Thika United (27) to remain in the drop zone on goal-difference.
Critically, the power men failed to make further ground on basement side Muhoroni Youth FC (24) who have played two games less at 28 against 26 with the fight to avoid the dreaded chop getting ever tighter.
In a keenly contested opening stanza at Ruaraka, Tusker, whose grip on the SPL trophy has been loosened by leaders Gor Mahia FC (60) had a more assured start, forcing the game’s first corner that came to nought five minutes in.
The entertaining, end to end, encounter saw both teams raid opposing defences in search of the opener without success and in the 18th, the flow of play was interrupted when Sharks defender, Pascal Ogweno, went into the book for a meaty challenge.
Tusker came close to breaking the deadlock in the 33rd when seasoned midfielder, Humphrey Mieno, rattled the woodwork when he let fly with a stinging right-footed shot.
Sharks were guilty of some roughhouse play when Michael Bondo became their second player on a yellow five minutes to the breather in the only other notable incident as the half ended with both sides locked at 0-0.
Sensing his team was surrendering the initiative, Sharks head coach, William Muluya, brought off Harambee Stars midfielder, Patillah Omotto whose influence in the middle of the pack was waning, for Michael Odongo minutes after the restart.
Not content, Muluya then hauled off Elli Asieche for Gambian striker, Ebrima Sanneh, in a bid to add more firepower upfront in the 65th with the contest evenly poised.
His opposite number, George ‘Best’ Nsimbe responded seven minutes later by calling on his super sub forward, Stephen Owusu for Brian Osumba in a straight swap and in the 81st, called on youngster Sydney Ochieng to take the place of Noah Wafula.
However, it was Muluya’s gamble that almost paid off eight minutes from time when Sanneh got through on goal only to be denied by a superb block from Eugene Asike as Tusker survived a huge scare.
In stoppage time, Tusker got a free kick in a promising position but the chance for a final flourish to an intriguing game was wasted when Mieno showed his mastery of the dead ball with a good delivery but Lloyd Wahome let his teammate down by when he skied his effort wide.
At the Moi Stadium in Kisumu, Nakumatt left it late to secure a crucial point on the road when Boniface Akenga scored the equaliser at the death to cancel out Brian Marita’s opener for Stima.
In Kericho, Zoo rallied twice from a goal down to ensure a share of the spoils against visiting Nzoia much to the relief of their passionate supporters.
Lawrence Juma opened the scoring with half an hour gone before Danson Namasaka levelled the scores two minutes to the break.
Vincent Ngesa then struck on the brink of half time to silence the home supporters as Bernard Mwalala and his charges went to the break 1-2 to the good.
Zoo battled to the very end and with two minutes remaining, their efforts were rewarded when Geoffrey Gichana restored parity to round off the scoring in an enthralling encounter.
-Additional reporting and photos by SPN Correspondent