Zoo prove too tricky as soldiers Ulinzi fall in Kericho
Zoo Kericho made a huge step towards Kenyan Premier League (KPL) survival with a 2-1 victory over Ulinzi Stars at the Kericho Green Stadium on Sunday.
Danson Chetambe struck the opener in the first half after converting from the penalty spot before Ernest Kipkoech scrambled in the second moments before half time to seal the win and take the hosts level with Vihiga United on 25 points.
Ulinzi’s Enosh Ochieng scored his 16th goal of the season to close in on a tight three-man golden boot chase, levelling Umaru Kasumba of Sofapaka FC and only one behind Kakamega Homeboyz striker Allan Wanga.
Zoo remain 17th on the KPL log but they could go above Vihiga to occupy the promotion playoff spot if they win their game in hand against basement side Mount Kenya United.
Kick off was delayed by 10 minutes as officials deemed the Ulinzi team bus had been parked too close to the pitch area and demanded it be driven off.
Ulinzi themselves made a calamitous start to the match after goalkeeper James Saruni made a poor judgment to come off his lines and intercept a cross which eventually beat him.
It left Kepha Ondati to head into an empty net but his effort was cleared off the lines by Boniventure Muchika. He appeared to use his hands to smack it away and the referee awarded a penalty which Chetambe tucked away.
Zoo had an opportunity to double their advantage after Derrick Anami found Ernest Kipkoech with a clever reverse ball but this time Saruni read the play perfectly to come off his lines and thwart the attacker.
Johnson Ligare made a brave block to deny Enosh Ochieng on the other end before another effort from Ezekiel Okare was pushed back into play by goalkeeper Martin Elungat.
His punch-away fell to John Kago and Zoo were finally able to clear the danger after his attempt was hacked out for an unsuccessful corner.
Both teams appeared even in terms of possession and chance creation but the visitors were simply not clinical enough. After a spell in which Ulinzi appeared the likelier to score and restore parity, Zoo went 2-0 up with Kipkoech delivering the sucker punch.
Geoffrey Gichana found space to run into down the right channel and Anami teed him up with the final delivery falling into Kipkoech who had to muscle Hassan Mohammed out of the way to score at the far post.
Elvis Nandwa endured an underwhelming afternoon and was finally hauled off in the second half for Oscar Wamalwa as coach Benjamin Nywangweso sought to fix his team’s lack of attacking threat.
Sabiri Sindani and Ligare marshalled the Zoo backline expertly and provided an answer to almost everything Ulinzi threw at them as they continued to stifle Ochieng, the one of the KPL’s most prolific strikers this season.
Wamalwa hooked a cheeky ball above the Zoo defence with his back heel but it proved too high for Ochieng to get any contact on it with his head.
Anami forced a smart stop from Saruni moments later after driving through midfield and pulling the trigger from just outside the area before Bernard Ongoma’s snap shot veered just off target.
It was becoming progressively difficult for either side to piece any move together following a second half downpour yet it was Sindani and Ligare that stood out with some meaty challenges to win back crucial balls.
Okare had a penalty shout turned down after what appeared to be a high challenge from Dominic Ouma. Instead, the referee fell short of booking him for a dive and asked him to get up to allow for goal kick.
Ulinzi finally got their goal courtesy of Ochieng who poked home from close range.
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