|ULinzi Stars’ George Otieno beats Sofapaka’s Humphrey Mieno to the ball during their KPL match at Afraha Stadium.|
By ROBIN TOSKIN and BEN AHENda
Ulinzi Stars revived their floundering championship hopes to improve to 40 points, five behind stuttering leaders AFC Leopards, thanks to Wycliffe Ochomo’s 25th minute strike against Sofapaka in Nakuru.
Having watched Western Stima humiliate the more illustrious Kenyan Premier League leaders AFC Leopards at their Afraha Stadium backyard, Ulinzi Stars had to put aside their own woes to fashion out a result that leaves in a position to strike at the leading pack.
Coming off two consecutive defeats to Gor Mahia and Chemelil and a scoreless draw further back against Tusker, Ulinzi Stars knew defeat would virtually put them out of the title race.
Reigning champions Tusker (42 points) play KCB today (4pm at City Stadium) and therefore, on Sunday’s fixture was a must win for Ulinzi.
The soldiers had seen their gritty displays against Chemelil and Gor Mahia all end in defeat and coach Sammy Simiyu, whose future as Ulinzi Stars coach was the subject of speculation, rested centre-back Geoffrey Kokoyo for Josiah Odhiambo.
Sofapaka, too, had not registered a win since the 4-1 beating of Thika United way back on July 28 .
With Englishman Stewart Hall making his debut on the bench since signing for the Sofapaka last week, the 2009 champions started brightly but Danson Kago failed to make the most of James Situma’s cross after three minutes.
Heritier Luvualu making a rare start for Sofapaka, drew a good save from goalkeeper Jacktone Odhiambo. The visitors were to be beaten back midway through the first half when Ochomo latched on to George Otieno’s searching pass to beat Duncan Ochieng.
Hall’s first ever substitution as Sofapaka coach saw him bench Kago for Mugalia at the start of the second half and it should have paid immediate dividends. Mugalia shot gave goalkeeper Odhiambo all sorts of problems before James Mulinge came to the rescue with John Baraza waiting to pounce.