It might still be early days in the season but the usual title contenders — Tusker, Ulinzi Stars — are already falling over themselves to get out of the championship race. It was always going to take a huge effort to challenge holders Gor Mahia for the title in what is Dylan Kerr’s first full season in charge. That challenge now will seemingly come from unlikely quarters with Mathare United now in the driving sit with maximum points from their two matches following yet another come from behind victory this time against Nzoia United.Francis Omondi was the hero for Mathare United as he converted an 83rd minute penalty to hand the team a hard fought victory against the visitors at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.George Mutimba had put Nzoia the lead at the half-hour mark and they maintained it until the 77th minute when Chrispine Oduor equalized for the Slum Boys. Omondi scored from the spot six minutes later to hand Mathare the crucial win. Gor, however, with a superior goal difference with just one game played can overtake them should they manage to pick all three points away at Zoo Kericho today. The champions started their CAF Champions League sojourn on a winning note and will be hoping to take that feel-good-effect to their league clash and send an early statement of intent to the pretenders to their throne. Jacqeus Tuyisenge, who has barely got a look in this season will likely be handed the responsibility of leading the search for goals against Zoo. Hat-trick hero on the opening day, Meddie Kagere, will also be keen to add to his goal tally while Ivorian Ephraim Guikan, who scored a stunning second in the 2-0 win over Leones Vegeteranios will be looking to make his domestic debut.After the disappointment of the home draw against Madagascar side Fosa Juniors in the CAF Confederations Cup on Sunday, AFC Leopards must channel their frustration to seeking a first league win of the season when they clash with Wazito. Leopards were held to a 1-1 draw, a result that left them needing to win away to keep their continental journey on track.Bandari and Chemelil Sugar, who fought out to a goalless draw are behind Mathare in second and third respectively with four points. Nzoia are bottom of the table with no point from two matches.AFC Leopards playing unit has been slammed for a sluggish home display against Madagascan side Fosa Juniors in the CAF Champions League on Sunday where they surrendered a 1-0 lead to draw 1-1 at Bukhungu Stadium. Team manager Gilbert Selebwa termed the performance as awful and a let down to the fans, who had thronged the facility in their hundreds. Selebwa accused the players for ‘not showing up’ in the entire match and vowed to get answers before the team jets out for the return leg.Selebwa said the result was a disappointment despite camping in western Kenya for a week to acclimatise and work on their best first eleven. “We are very much disappointed with the result after making proper prior preparations. The whole team did not turn up for the match. All departments were not clicking at all and we must say sorry to our fans who turned up to support us. I cannot lay blame on an individual or the management for the draw, it’s the players to shoulder the blame. We will be getting solutions in the course of the week and we are confident of good results in the return match. We will play attacking football and pile pressure on them and we will be through to the next round.”Selebwa also wants the club management to fast-track the acquisition of the required documents for Salim ‘Shittu’ Abdalla and Erick Bekoe, who missed the first leg.“We really missed the two. Salim is a good defender while Bekoe has been the top scorer for the Ghanaian league twice. I urge the management to get the documents ready for the return leg. Their contribution will be highly relied upon.”A low key start to the National Super league season brought with it identical results for Western Stima and Nairobi Stima, who picked up 2-0 wins over Modern Coast Rangers and Nairobi City Stars respectively. Western Stima, who are hoping for return to the top flight league in quick time were helped by two goals from Johana Mwita and Maurice Dukully. Nairobi Stima also shrugged off a disappointing finish to their 2017 season to see off Nairobi City Stars. Stephen Owusu and Alex Luganji were on target for Stima.KCB’s match against Muhoroni Youth that had been scheduled for Sunday at Camp Toyoyo did not materialize as the latter failed to turn up. The bankers consequently took home all three points and two goals. Another promotion hopeful, Ushuru, meanwhile, got underway their quest for top-flight football with a win and so did Isibania and Kibera Black Stars. Police and Kisumu All-Stars were, however, held to identical barren draws by Talanta and St Joseph Youth respectively.Ushuru edged out Administration Police 2-0 at Camp Toyoyo grounds. Benson Amianda and Ekaliani Ndolo were on the scoresheet for the taxmen.Top spot, though, belongs to Isibania, who scored the highest tally of goals this season in a 3-1 win over Nakuru All Stars. A brace by Patrick Mvita and a goal by Abdalla Ismael were enough to render Jerome Baraka’s early opener for the guests a mere consolation.New boys Kangemi All-Stars kicked off their campaign on a sour note, losing 2-1 to Bidco United. A first-half goal by Martin Lemaiyan had got Kangemi All-Stars to a promising start. The new boys would, however, be pegged back by two goals by Bidco United’s Augustine Etemesi and Jacob Onyango.The Kenya Cup final have been pushed forward by a week to March 24. This follows a KRU League Committee decision to set aside February 17 as a free weekend to enable any pending fixtures in the Kenya Cup and second tier KRU Championship to take place. The move will allow the postponed fixture between Resolution Kisii and Strathmore Leos — originally planned for December 9, 2017, take place this weekend in Kisii. However, the third tier, Nationwide League, will not be affected by the fixture changes.The race for the playoff intensified over the weekend with wins for champions KCB , Homeboyz, Kabras , Impala and Quins to stay in the top five .KCB the sole unbeaten side in the top tier have 44 points but have two difficulties fixtures to the end of the regular season — against Kabras and Impala.Homeboyz are placed second on 39 points and will be waiting to pounce on any slip ups by the bankers with matches against minnows Mombasa Sports Club (MSC) and a tricky final tie against Strathmore Leos.Kabras are third on 38 points and face KCB and Blak Blad with fourth-placed Impala taking on Strathmore Leos and KCB.Quins, who are fifth on 28 points meet Kisii and Nondies while the race for the final playoff slot could go down to the wire with Strathmore, Nakuru and Nondies in the mix.Strathmore are currently sixth on 21 points, Nakuru seventh on 18 while Nondies are a point behind at eighth.Nondies are awaiting their appeal after they were docked 10 points for allegedly fielding ineligible players against Strathmore and Mombasa. If Nondies win the appeal, they will be right back in the mix for the playoffs.Kenya Sevens received a shot in the arm after the government forked out Sh31m to foot players’ allowances and salaries. Sports Permanent Secretary, Peter Kaberia, said th money was wired to the Kenya Rugby Union accounts last week and will be on the various national teams after SportPesa terminated their sponsorship deal last month.Kaberia observed that they have forked out a further Sh3m to Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and Sh6m to the Boxing Association of Kenya for their recent trip to India. The three are part of the federations affected by SportPesa’s withdrawal.KRU had presented a Sh50m to the ministry for the national teams including the Kenya Sevens, Simbas, Kenya under 19 team and the women’s teams. However, the bulk of the Sh31m will go the Kenya Sevens who has six leg remaining on the 10-leg World Sevens Series including Las Vegas, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Paris.The team will also require additional funding for the Rugby World Cup Sevens slated for July 20-22 in for San Fransisco, California. Kenya are currently ranked eight on the World Sevens Series log with 35 points after four tournaments.The union expects to get a second tranche from the government at the start of April of a similar amount. Director of Rugby at Kenya Rugby Union Thomas Odundo said the union was still hunting for sponsorships for their various brands. “Sponsorships is something you don’t wake up and get. We have initiated a process. All we can we do now is wait and hope for someone to come on board as soon as possible,” said Odundo adding that funding is required for development, referees and secretariat .Odundo said he was delighted with the performance of the Kenya Sevens squad in the past two legs in Sydney and Hamilton and is hopeful that theyw ill continue with the same spirit in the remainder of the series.“The boys did a commendable job in very trying conditions and we salute their professionalism in both tournaments,” added Odundo.Experienced Kenya Prisons libero Elizabeth Wanyama has resumed training well in time for next month’s Africa Club Championship set for Cairo, Egypt. Wanyama, who was away on maternity leave, missed both the Kenya Prisons and national team assignments for the whole of last year.In her absence at the club level, the former Kenya Volleyball Federation league champions and Africa Club bronze medalist called on Judith Tarus, while Agrippina Kundu was the pick at the national outfit.Wanyama said her immediate goal is to get into competitive shape and then fight for a seat in the flight to Cairo.“I am happy to be back to the field. I was away for the last one year. I know I have missed a lot but I am back now and ready to start afresh. It is not going to be a walk in the park bearing in mind the many talents emerging but that is what competition is all about,” noted Wanyama.“So far, preparations for the club championships and the 2018 league is going on well. My priority is to get back to shape and start to muscle for a slot in the team. Definitely, my goal is to work with the team members to improve last year’s performance. I know it’s not going to be easy but we have our work well cut out.”Prisons settled for second behind fierce rivals Kenya Pipeline last season but both teams still qualified for the club championships set for March 5-15 .Kenya Prisons coach Josp Barasa said they were happy to have Wanyama back in the team.He revealed that their target at the forthcoming club championships will be to better their performance during last year’s event in Tunisia.“We have been conducting our training session at the Nairobi West grounds and I am glad we are moving to the Safaricom Indoor Arena tomorrow (today). Our focus is to improve on our last year performance,” said Barasa who double up as the Malkia Strikers assistant coach.Barasa also confirmed the signing of Kwanthanze Secondary School duo of left attacker Sharon Jepchumba and middle blocker Doreen Chebet.The tactician noted: “We are happy to have the two players in our team. They are good players and I believe we are destined for good things.”Kenyans posted mixed results in the first round of Nairobi Open Wheelchair Tennis tour tournament at Nairobi Club yesterday. Three of the six home players secured slots in the second round while the others bade farewell to the tournament at the first hurdle. Experienced Collins Omondi was the biggest causality as he lost 7-5, 6-3 to Said Himam of Morocco to crash out. Mondi, who tutors young players was on the receiving end of the Moroccan player’s wrath.Himam broke the home player’s resistance in the opening set to force a win after tying 5-5. Himam had a smoother ride in the second set, conceding just three games to win the contest. Omondi praised his opponent while blaming the loss on his poor positioning.He said: “He was strong and his positioning was good throughout the game. The first set was a balanced one. I gave my best until the tie break where I lost focus at a very crucial stage. His serves were strong in the second set and I made mistakes in positioning myself while receiving the serves. It’s unfortunate I have lost my first match but I will work on how to monitor my opponents’ positioning in the future. I want to be keen on my returns which I returned directly to him instead of placing them far from reach.”In other results, Kenyan duo of Peter Munuve and Rajab Athman beat Tanzanians Voster Lengonela 6-3, 6-2 and Bernard Namasapani 6-1,6-2 respectively to sail to the second round. Asiya Sururu registered a 6-1,6-3 over Tanzania’s Scholastica Nchinga in the ladies’ category.Shaban Matano and Itakeo Kipellian joined Omondi in the weeping corner after losing to Mohammed Alliene of Great Britain and Emmanuel Temba of Tanzania respectively. Matano fell 6-1,6-7,6-3 to the Briton while Kipellian succumbed to Temba in identical scores of 6-2,6-2. The tournament winner will bag Sh300 000.Had they been more clinician in front of goal, this CAF Champions League preliminary round mismatch against abject Equatorial Guinea outfit Leones Vegetarianios would have been effectively over but as it is Gor Mahia will go into the return leg in Malabo with the contest even despite a 2-0 lead. But coach Dylan Kerr remains both confident that his side would make it into the next round and cautious that they need to avoid any slip up.“I think we really played and pressed well right from the start. We created many chances and it is only a pity that we could not score past two. Overall, we performed really well but the tie is not over. We need to focus on a better second leg,” Kerr said. Goals from Kevin Omondi and Ivorian-import Ephraim Guikan in either half handed Gor the advantage ahead of the second leg in 10 days.Gor skipper Harun Shakava was ecstatic with the result noting: “We didn’t know much about this team but now we have a few ideas on how to tackle them. Winning the first leg with a clean sheet is a huge thing for us. Hopefully we finish the job away and qualify,” said shakava Vegetarianos, who won the Equatorial Guinea league for the first time last year, were miles away behind Gor in terms of experience and game management and failed to land a shot on target throughout the game.Gor used their home advantage well and bossed the game. Meddie Kagere had the first effort of the game in the fifth minute when he took an instinctive turn off Godfrey Walusimbi’s cross from the left but the shot went straight to the keeper.The visitors shot stopper was kept busy in the opening exchanges and 10 minutes later, he was almost caught out going for a Francis Kahata cross from the left, Wellington Ochieng flicking past him but captain Asterio Ondeyi cleared off the line.The keeper didn’t have a chance in the 19th minute though when Kahata nodded down Kagere’s cross from the left with a waiting Omondi slapping it home first time. Ten minutes to half time, Omondi had another go at goal, this time his effort on the half volley going wide after a little flick got him off his defender. Six minutes into the second half, Joash Onyango had a chance to double the scoreline but his header unmarked inside the box from an Odhiambo free-kick went over.However, the 16-time Kenyan champions went 2-0 up thanks to substitute Guikan. The Ivorian who played for Mauritian side AS Port Louis in last year’s Champions League had barely spent 30 seconds on the pitch when he collected a throw-in from the right and shot at goal catching the goalie off guard.
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