Champions Tusker put up a spirited fight to see-off Gor Mahia 2-0 in a Football Kenya Federation Premier League match at the William Ole Ntimama Stadium in Narok on Saturday.
Shaphan Oyugi struck the opener three minutes into the match before half-time subsistitute Deogratius Ojok headed in the second on 72 minutes to help the Brewers reduce the gap between them and leaders Kakamega Homeboyz to seven points.
“Today we have won fairly and no team was assisted by the referee like it was last weekend. The goals had no issue and the match referee did his job well. As a coach, I will not complain even if I lose if games are officiated the way it was today,” said Tusker coach Robert Matano.
“We are still in the race for the title and you can’t rule us out because eight games are too many. What is important is that we take a game at a time and fight to win and not focus on the results of our opponents,” he added.
The win pushed Tusker’s points tally to 46 from 26 rounds with only eight games to the end of the season. Homeboyz lead the log on 53 points but could regain their 10-point lead at the helm if they beat Batoto ba Mungu.
For Gor, dropping points pushed them far off the league title contest as they have garnered 42 points from 26 games.
Gor could drop to fifth on the log if Nairobi City Stars and Bandari win their matches against Ulinzi Stars and Nzoia Sugar on Sunday and Monday respectively.
It was a sweet victory for Tusker who last weekend complained of being denied a genuine goal in the dying minutes when the two teams clashed at Thika Sub County Stadium.
Even before the game could gather pace, under pressure Gor defender Dennis Ng'ang'a gifted the brewers an early goal after being dispossessed by Oyugi who put the ball in the net with much ease.
The brewers continued to dictate proceedings and missed a good chance to add the second when Tanzania striker Ibrahim Joshua shot off target after intercepting Gad Mathews pass to Philemon Otieno at the heart of K’Ogalo defence.
Gor Mahia’s main undoing was opting for long passes and high balls which were won and intercepted by Tusker. The attacking duo of George ‘Blackberry” Odhiambo and Congolese import Sando Sando Yangayay found it hard to penetrate Tusker defence.
Gor's first realistic chance came towards the half hour mark when Ernest Wendo picked a loose ball in the midfield, raced past Lawrence Luvanda and Rodgers Ouma to pick out Yangayay who shot wide on his weaker left foot.
The game was halted on 38 minutes after Tusker custodian Patrick Matasi landed awkwardly after gathering an aerial ball. After being treated for about seven minutes, Matasi resumed but couldn’t continue in the six added minutes of the first half forcing coach Robert Matano to bring on Michael Wanjala.
Gor Mahia's German coach Andreas Spier brought on Benson Omalla and Boniface Omondi for Yangayay and Peter Lwasa on resumption while Matano made a triple change with Stewart Omondi, Rodgers Ouma and Ibrahim Joshua paving way for Ugandan forward Deogratious Ojok, Humprey Mieno and John Njuguna.
Tusker defender Isaac Kipyegon received a yellow card early in the second half for a dangerous foul on Boniface but Austin's ensuing free-kick went inches wide for a goal kick.
Omalla hit the post from Austin’s cross on the right as Tusker survived another attack from Gor.
With 20 minutes to go, Spier made another double change Samuel Onyango and Jules Ulimwengu settling in the place for Austin and George ‘Blackberry Odhiambo.
“Our game plan didn’t work and this defeat takes us back to the drawing board. Our title chances are at stake because the gap between us and the top team is wide and we must fight back in our next match. Tusker outplayed us and my strikers also missed the few chances we got,” said Spier.
Even before the duo could settle in, Njuguna released Luvanda who unleashed pin-point cross which Ojok headed home to hand the brewers their second goal of the day.
Tusker held on to win the match to keep their faint hope of retaining the title alive.
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