New Wazito FC signing Elvis Rupia, came off the bench for his new employers to grab the equalizer and help salvage a point against Nzoia Sugar in the two teams’ one-all draw, opening round fixture of the 2019-20 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) played Saturday 31 August at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.
The striker scored from the penalty spot with 22 minutes remaining on the clock to net against his former side and cancel out Collins Wakhungu’s opener that had come just eight minutes after the restart.
Rupia, who left Nzoia in mid-2018 to join the paid ranks in Zambia, was introduced in the second half for another new signing in Matthew Tayo, and showed sparks of his former self that saw him finish in the top three in the 2018 scorers’ chart with 15 goals from a significantly reduced number of games as he had left Nzoia midway through the season.
Wazito, who have recruited in plenty in preparation for their return to the topflight after winning last season’s NSL title, fielded six new singings in the starting eleven and gave a further three players their debuts from the bench in the game against the millers.
But they struggled to get in the grove in the early stages of the match as the visitors settled faster curving the game’s best chances in the first stanza. The highlight of which was a low drive from outside the area from midfielder Leonard Kasembeli that beat former Sony Sugar keeper Kevin Omondi but agonizingly came off the upright to deny Collins Korea Omondi’s charges what would have been a deserved lead.
Perhaps also, Wazito’s shaky showing was due to the absence of head coach Fred Ambani from the touchline, the tactician, who orchestrated their promotion, missed the game as he was tying the knot.
The millers’ persistence would bear fruit though after the restart as Wazito’s shaky defence was exposed by a cross from the lively Robert Arot that beat all before it for Wakhungu to pounce at the far post and break the deadlock.
With big spenders Wazito struggling to break down their opponents, stand in coach Stanley Okumbi introduced former Sony duo of Joshua Nyatini and Derrick Otanga. The changes reinvigorated the hosts who pulled one back via a penalty that was brought about by a handball in the box after captain Joe Waithera had weaved his way through on goal.
Rupia stepped up to slot the ball home after a small discussion between him and Waithera perhaps on who was supposed to take the setpiece between the two.
A few minutes later, Wazito would have taken the lead in glorious fashion but Nyatini’s well struck shot from distance cannoned off the crossbar.
In the end, both teams had to settle for the point as the new season – just three matches in – has produced just one victory, which came on Friday as Posta Rangers beat Sofapaka.
Below is how both teams lined up;
Starting XI: Brian Omondi (GK), Karim Nzigiyimana, Lloyd Wahome, Washington Munene, Johnstone Omurwa, Brian Musa, Amos Asembeka, Mike Oduor, Matthew Tayo, Joe Waithera, Derrick Onyango
Subs: Gad Matthew (GK), Paul Aquah, Ali Abondo, Joshua Nyatini, Derrick Otanga, Bernard Ochieng, Elvis Rupia
Starting XI: 15. Humphrey Katasi , 17. Brian Wepo , 16. Thomas Wainaina, 34. Chris Wesamba, 06. Rama Mwenda, 13. Kevin Juma, 22. Robert Abonga, 21. Robert Arrot , 09. Boris Kwezi, 32. Leonard Kasembeli, 07. Collins Wakhungu
Subs: 23. Faraji Kabali, 05. Ian Karani , 25. Dennis Wanjala, 11. Abraham Kipkogei, 03. Gaetan Masha, 20. Okanda Felicien, 18. James Kibande