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Nine things to look out for in KPL Round Five

Tuesday January 1 2019

Gor Mahia coach Hassan Oktay gives instructions to players during their training session at Camp Toyoyo grounds, Nairobi on December 11, 2018. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Gor Mahia coach Hassan Oktay gestures during their training session at Camp Toyoyo grounds, Nairobi on December 11, 2018. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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The SportPesa Premier League (SPL) enters Round Five on Wednesday with nine matches lined up at different venues across the country.

Leaders Mathare United will host struggling KCB at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani while champions Gor Mahia will look to bounce back from their 1-0 loss to Kariobangi Sharks when they welcome Chemelil Sugar at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

Mount Kenya United go in search of their first win at the same venue as they lock horns with Sharks in the early kick-off.

Posta Rangers begin life after Sammy "Pamzo" Omollo with a tie against AFC Leopards at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru.

Nation Sport presents the nine things to look out for in Wednesday's action.

Manyika needs to redeem himself


On their return to the topflight following a three-year absence, KCB broke the bank to rope in foreigners in a bid to bolster their ranks. However, four matches into the new season only one foreigner, goalkeeper Peter Manyika, looks to have secured a place in Frank Ouna’s first eleven.

The Tanzanian’s start to life in the SPL has been worrying though, having conceded eight goals so far. He is a pale shadow of the goalkeeper, who entertained Singida United fans with great reflexes and good distribution in the Tanzanian top tier.

The bankers face leaders Mathare United, who are firing from all cylinders with Cliff Nyakeya and Kevin Kimani off to a bright start. If Manyika needs a turning point, there is no better one than a clean sheet at Kasarani against the rampant Slum Boys.

KCB's Tanzanian goalkeeper Peter Manyika
KCB's Tanzanian goalkeeper Peter Manyika gestures during their friendly against Mathare United at Goan Institute Grounds on November 28, 2018. Manyika is one of the 16 foreigners who will be playing in the KPL for the first time. PHOTO | SAMUEL GACHARIRA |

Oktay should work on winning the Green Army

Champions Gor Mahia are already playing catch up after losing two matches in the league. They are seven points off the leaders with a game in hand.

The arrival of Hassan Oktay at the club is yet to generate the verve that comes with a new foreigner at the helm of K’Ogalo.

Understandably so, because Gor has blown hot and cold under the Cypriot coach. He first lost to Bandari, before overseeing the 4-0 rout of Zoo. Then came the 1-0 loss to Kariobangi Sharks last weekend.

Oktay is yet to convince the Green Army that he is best fit for the job especially after the fans became accustomed to winning under Dylan Kerr last season. The 2-0 loss to Lobi Stars in the return leg of the first round of the Caf Champions League erased any hopes of the K’Ogalo faithful believing in him.

Perhaps a proper drubbing of Chemelil Sugar will restore confidence from the fans. Any other result will certainly complicate his case.

Shark attack means Mwangi’s job is on the line

Still without a win after the opening four rounds, bottom-placed Mount Kenya United face a tall order against Kariobangi Sharks at Machakos.

The transition from Nakumatt to Mt Kenya United seems to have taken off at the management level with the new owners taking over but on the pitch results have not been forthcoming.

Nakumatt had a similar poor start last season that culminated in the relegation/promotion play-off to secure topflight status at the tail end. The arrival of Melis Medo turned around their fortunes and it looks like Anthony Mwangi could soon be sent packing after living in the shadow of Medo in 2018 as an assistant.

Sharks, who are riding high on confidence after stunning champions Gor Mahia last weekend, could seal Mwangi’s fate as a sack looks imminent if he succumbs to a fifth consecutive loss.  

Kamau should carry 2015 lessons as he returns to Rangers

John Kamau begins his second stint as Posta Rangers head coach with a tricky tie against AFC Leopards. He takes over a team that is lacking in confidence after registering two losses and only one win against whipping boys Mt Kenya United.

Even worse is that he was barely involved in the transfer window where his predecessor Omollo signed Ken Mutembei, Francis Nambute, William Odero, Brian Juma, Wesley Onguso and Dennis Ongeri.

His first stint in 2015 was cut short after only six months with club chairman John Tonui announcing that he had been redeployed to head the sports docket within the Human Resource Department. It was reported that Kamau had lost his dressing room and as he returns to the helm that should be a top priority.

He already has a trusted lieutenant in Joseph Ruto as his goalkeeper trainer and his long-term assistant Moses Irungu looks likely to join him on the bench alongside Pascal Ochieng’. As he gets down to business, Kamau has to right the wrongs of 2015 if he is to succeed at Rangers.

Ulinzi Stars coach Dunstan Nyaudo reacts after
Ulinzi Stars coach Dunstan Nyaudo reacts after his team conceded the third goal during their SportPesa Shield semi-final against Kariobangi Sharks at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on September 23, 2018. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Nyaudo’s Ulinzi lacks a leader

Ulinzi Stars will be without Geoffrey Kokoyo at least for the first leg of the season due to military engagements. In his absence, James Saruni, Mohammed Hassan, Omar Mbongi, Daniel Waweru and Brian Birgen stand out as the most experienced players.

Saruni has worn the armband in the last four matches and the soldiers have looked like a side lacking in leadership. By their own high standards, a return of five points from four matches is appalling. This Ulinzi side lacks the command of Francis Onyiso, the coordination and calming influence of Francis Ocholla and the motivation of Kokoyo.

Dunstan Nyaudo’s charges let a one goal lead slip to settle for a 2-2 draw with ten-man Sofapaka last weekend. The Ulinzi of the old would have closed shop and secured maximum points. Against Vihiga United in the season opener, they were out of sorts and inevitably lost 2-0 at Bukhungu.

Their trip to Sudi could end up in another shocking loss if the experienced lot do not rise to the occasion and provide leadership on the pitch.

Vihiga perfect test for resurgent Tusker

After a slow start to the season, Tusker have chalked two consecutive wins against struggling KCB and Mount Kenya United.

The Brewers did not look convincing in the first two matches where they lost to Western Stima and drew with Sony Sugar. However Robert Matano’s charges have scored six goals in the last two games to recover from their sorry start.

Their resurgence will however be checked by a stubborn Vihiga United side who have the second best defensive record in the league so far after Mathare United. Mike Mururi’s charges have only conceded twice in four games and Tusker need to be at their best to break them down.

At the heart of Vihiga's defensive performance has been skipper Bernard Ochieng’. Mururi will hope his imposing captain will lead from the front as he eyes a third clean sheet. The two goals they have conceded have come after the 80th minute mark and concentration has to improve to deny Tusker.

Western Stima players celebrate their opening
Western Stima players celebrate their opening goal during their SportPesa Premier League match against Bandari at Mbaraki Sports Club on December 29, 2018. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT |

Stima could make another statement

Western Stima have looked more than decent following their return to the top tier. Unbeaten in four matches, the powermen have claimed the scalps of big teams notably Tusker at home.

They made a big statement on the road last time out picking a point against Bandari at the fortress that is Mbaraki.  Paul Ogai’s 100 per cent record at the Moi Stadium in Kisumu will come under threat as a regular top four side, Sofapaka, visits.

He will draw encouragement from the fact that Batoto ba Mungu have conceded seven goals in four matches. Only KCB and Mt Kenya United have conceded more. Sofapaka’s porous defence makes them ripe fodder for a shock loss at the hands of Stima who have proved tough customers at home.

If Stima score first in Kisumu, Sofapaka might find it difficult to even claim a point.

Bandari FC head coach Bernard Mwalala
Bandari FC head coach Bernard Mwalala instructing his players during a past training session. PHOTO | ABDULRAHMAN SHERIFF |

Away points central to Bandari’s title ambitions

After picking four points in his first two games on the road, Bernard Mwalala must have realized that winning the title will be hinged on their away record.

Still unbeaten, Bandari have dropped two points at home after being held to a 1-1 draw by Western Stima last time out. With the SPL returnees showing that teams can pick points at Mbaraki, the Dockers have to compensate for that by winning away.

The away trip to Kericho to face 16th placed Zoo, who have lost thrice in four games, could yield at least a point if the Dockers turn up like they did against Sofapaka and KCB at Machakos.

Omondi needs a clean sheet at Awendo

Sony Sugar’s resurgence last season was fuelled by Enock Agwanda’s return to form as well as a string of good saves from Kevin Omondi. It was no surprise Omondi was voted the third best goalkeeper in the league.

However he has had a poor start to the season having kept only one clean sheet, conceding four goals in as many matches. In fact, he has conceded twice at Awendo Green Stadium, a place the Millers have turned into a poor hunting ground for visiting teams over the years.

Kakamega Homeboyz’s forwards Maxwell Ravel and Peter Thiong’o will want to continue with their good start to the season and Omondi has his work cut out as he looks to register his first clean sheet at home.