By Gilbert Wandera
As the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) enters the home stretch, top teams are playing it 'safe' and Wednesday's top of the bill clash pitting champions Tusker against Sofapaka was not any different after it ended in a barren draw.
Despite Sofapaka playing with a man less after defender George Owino was sent off towards the end of the first half, Tusker could not take advantage of their numerical strength and were even lucky not to concede a late goal when defender Eugine Asike's header hit the post.
Owino was shown a straight red card after he intentionally brought down Joseph Emeka who was rushing towards the Sofapaka goal after beating the last man.
While leaders AFC Leopards will be delighted by the result it complicates matters for the two sides who maintain their previous positions on the log. Tusker remains third on 42 points while the 2009 KPL champions are still fourth but on 40points.
Coming into Wednesday's match, the pressure was always on new Tusker coach Robert Matano to register his first win since being hired to replace former coach Sammy Omollo.
It is a reality that was evident in the Tusker players and with Matano urging then on from the touch line, they dominated the early proceedings but were disappointing for creating few chances and luck of effort at goal.
When Owino was sent off for a professional foul on Emeka, it was expected that the brewers would take advantage of their numbers but the inclusion of Eugine Asike to cover the back was a bold decision by stand in coach David Ouma as it kept the brewers under check.
Tusker dominated the early spells of the second half but there were no goals to prove it. As the match wore on, Sofapaka gained confidence and often repulsed the brewers on the counter.
Once again, the brewers’ attack of Dennis Mukaisi, Patrick Kagogo and Joseph Emeka was a big let down and had to be pulled off late in the second half.
Fredrick Ojwang a late replacement for Emeka nearly scored in the 77th minute when his lobbed ball landed on the roof of the net with Duncun Ochieng in Sofapaka goal out of line.
But Sofapaka were not taking it lying down and appeared to have saved the best for last. First, John Barasa, the league's top scorer forced Boniface Oluoch to make a reflex save and the then Asike rattled the upright with his header from a corner.
It was the third straight barren draw by Tusker and coach Matano was a clearly disappointed man.
"Once again, my strikers let me down but we will keep on working to ensure that we start scoring," he said.