Sofapaka and Ulinzi Stars played out an entertaining but goalless outing in the two sides’ Kenyan Premier League (KPL) clash staged at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Wednesday 10 April.
Ulinzi Stars had an early goal disallowed, a penalty shout ignored in the second half and very inspired Sofapaka keeper Justin Ndikumana to deal with in the game and at the end of it they’d feel two points slipped off their grip.
Sofapaka too had good clear cut chances, especially in the opening half but an alert James Saruni proved too big to beat in the Ulinzi Stars goal.
Ulinzi Stars trooped to the game firmly as underdogs, and coming from two straight losses and placed 12th on the log, they stood no chance against a side on four wins in the last five matches. However, that was not the script in the game.
Oscar Wamalwa tapped in what would have been a fifth minute goal for Ulinzi Stars after racing in well to direct home Brian Birgen’s low cross, and while TV replays showed he was well onside, assistant referee Joshua Achilla stuck up his flag, cutting short the Soldiers’ celebrations.
Shortly after that, Daniel Waweru went down under pressure from Jacob’s Faina but the contact was too minimal to move the referee as Ulinzi Stars demanded a penalty.
In the eighth minute Wamalwa had a clean take, beating Faina to the ball and shooting low and well on target, but Ndikumana was alert to it and saved the situation.
The tide could have changed for Sofapaka in the 23rd minute as Elli Asieche slid in a pass to Umaru Kasumba who found himself one on one with Saruni but the keeper spread his body out well to block the Ugandan forward’s shot.
Two minutes later, Saruni had to come out in a big way again to save his mates after Steven Waruru was allowed space in the box and took and angled low shot targeting the far post. Saruni read his intentions well and dived well to pick the ball.
Sensing the danger, Ulinzi managed to coin a good chance with a powerful surge forward and cross from Birgen, which was met by Nandwa with an equally good header but the ball bounced off the bar on the half hour mark.
The see-saw action shiftedd to Sofapaka’s favor as the game headed to the break, with Kasumba getting the last big chance of the opening half when he created space for himself, dribbled in well and shot low and on target. Saruni was there to once again make a good save.
Ulinzi had the chance to take a 71st minute lead after Nandwa found space in and was clearly tripped by Faina but as he went down by the tackle, the referee saw no cause to point to the spot, much to Ulinzi Stars’ chagrin.
Late in the game, Ulinzi sensed this could be slipping away from them and upped the tempo but a good team move in the 85th minute ended fruitless as Ndikumana stopped Enosh Ochieng’s effort in a one on one situation.
In the 88th minute, Ndikumana came up in a big way again for Sofapaka, throwing himself to Wamalwa’s header, stopping another goal bound effort and in essence helping his team pick a point.
The result saw Ulinzi Stars temporarily rise to 10th place with 26 points as Sofapaka consolidated second place with 41 points, three off leaders Gor Mahia.