By ROBIN TOSKIN
Sofapaka retained the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) curtain raiser, the DSTV/SuperSport Super Cup, by beating Ulinzi Stars 1-0 with both sides putting in a lethargic performance that will encourage other teams to go for glory when the league kicks-off next weekend.
Apart from John Baraza’s scrambled in goal on the 13th minute, the match failed to produce the fireworks it promised on paper.
Ulinzi Stars substitute Evans Amuoka saw a decent header come off the upright on 76 minutes, the only effort the military will carry to Cairo as the only encouragement for their return clash against Zamalek in the Caf Champions League. FKL Cup holders Sofapaka celebrate winning the DSTV/SuperSport Super Cup at Nyayo Stadium after defeating Ulinzi Stars at Nyayo Stadium, Sunday. [PHOTO: STAFFORD ONDEGO/STANDARD]
FKL Cup holders Sofapaka celebrate winning the DSTV/SuperSport Super Cup at Nyayo Stadium after defeating Ulinzi Stars at Nyayo Stadium, Sunday. [PHOTO: STAFFORD ONDEGO/STANDARD]
As winners of the league (Ulinzi Stars) and FKL Cup (Sofapaka), the two clashed in the traditional season opener with pundits, officials of the other 14 teams in the top division and their fans all flocking Nyayo Stadium to have a sneak preview of what they have in store.
In the end, however, it left a wry feeling on neutrals, who wanted to enjoy football, and motivation for the rest of the teams to dig in for a fight to win the 2011 season.
It turned out to be an evening to savour for the age-defying Baraza, who turned in Francis Ouma’s cross which Ulinzi Stars did little to mop up. And when Ulinzi attempted to conjure a reply in the 15th minute, Sofapaka third choice goalkeeper George Opiyo went down well to smother Steven Waruru’s low cross from the right.
Sofapaka then seized the initiative from then on, although without much threat.
An opportunity in the form of a free-kick presented itself to Titus Mulama, who Dennis Oliech has called for his inclusion in the national team, shot meekly at the waiting hands of veteran Francis Onyiso.
Baraza went for a second bite of the cherry on 30 minutes but saw his shot sail over before Ouma, who hopes to resuscitate his career at the former champions had a cross cut out by James Mulinge.
Waruru then threaded a through ball, but Mike Baraza was beaten to the ball by Opiyo.
Mulinge saw his Delap-like throw in on 45 minutes rattle the angle of the crossbar and the upright, but it would not have counted anyway as it would infringe Law 15 of the game, which says "goal cannot be scored directly from throw-in."
Sofapaka’s James Situma shot wide after restart and goalkeeper Opiyo Anthony Nderitu’s cross before picking it at the second attempt.
Waruru thought he had equalised in the 68th minute when he prodded from a goalmouth melee, but the flag was already up for offside.
Ulinzi Stars pushed for an equaliser as Sofapaka withered as the match progressed with the normally cool Ugandan, Musa Mudde picking up a yellow after a heavy challenge.
Amuoka who had come in for Nderitu shot through a forest of legs, but his effort would not beat Opiyo’s legs.
He was to go close in the 83rd minute when guided a header on to the post, which was to be the l