Paul Kiongera justified his June acquisition by Ushuru with a crucial goal that guaranteed them of another shot at promotion to the Kenyan Premier League-the promotion/relegation playoff.
Kiongera netted his first goal of the season with nine minutes left on the clock to secure a 1-1 draw against Bidco United and take his side’s tally to 69 points, one ahead of Nairobi Stima who were thrashed 4-1 by KCB at the Camp Toyoyo Grounds.
Lwamba Bebeto, dropped by Ushuru in June, threatened to spoil the party with the opener at the half hour but the sending off of Victor Ayugi just before the break gave Ushuru a glimmer of hope at the Kenyatta Stadium.
It was Kiongera who made the difference sweeping home from close range after some nice work from Benson Amianda on the left.
At the Camp Toyoyo, first half goals from Michael Osundwa, Kelvin Otieno and Jacob Keli set the tone for the rout. Patrick Mugendi pulled one back for Stima in the 70th minute but Samuel Semo ensured it was a mere consolation as the the bankers improved their tally to 78.
Meanwhile in Kisumu, leaders Western Stima beat visiting FC Talanta 3-2 to be crowned the 2018 National Super League (NSL) champions with 80 points.
Maurice Dukuly’s, Laban Gambareko and David Ojuang were on target for Stima while Talanta’s goals were scored by Emmanuel Mogaka and Job Tinyo.
Stima’s head coach Paul Ogai congratulated his side for fighting hard to win the match, saying apart from securing a place in next season’s Kenya Premier League, winning the trophy was one of the goals that they had in this season’s NSL.
“It was a good win because we had already qualified for next season’s NSL with two matches remaining but we wanted to pick the trophy. Our opponents scared us when they equalised but we came back strong in the second half and I am happy we won ,”said Coach Ogai.
The encounter begun with a one minute of silence for the departed former Thika United defender Denis Lewa who died in Wednesday’s tragic accident at Fort Ternan in Kericho.
Emmanuel Mogaka would have complicated matters for Stima in their quest to lift the trophy in the second minute, after he collected a loose ball at the edge of the box, but despite having several space between him and goalkeeper Samuel Odhiambo, the latter was not quick in making an attack and ended up loosing the ball to Geoffrey Ochieng.
Johana Mwita made Stima’s first attempt at Talanta’s goal a few minutes late with a powerful drive from outside box, but goalkeeper Joel Bataro was alert, before Dukuly broke the stalemate in the 20th minute from a dead-ball situation.
The Liberian beat Bataro with a stunning low free-kick on the far right of the goal post from a few meters outside the box.
The visitors would have cancelled Stima’s lead six minutes later had Job Tinyo kept his shot from the right wing low, before Odhiambo made a brilliant save in the 37th minute to deny Wahab Abdul an equaliser.
Determined to go for the break while at par, the visitors pilled pressure on Stima in the dying minutes of the first half, coming close thrice, with Odhiambo being the saviour for the host.
Talanta’s hard work finally paid off in the 47th minute when Mogaka shook the net from Seif Husseins’s delivery inside the box.
Looking to restore their lead, Stima begun the second half stong and added a second goal in the 50th minute.
Unmarked Laban Gambareko turned well to fire past a helpless Bataro, before David Ojuang stretched the power men’s lead to 3-1 with a header six minutes later.
But a defensive lapse costed them six minutes later as Tinyo easily slotted past Odhiambo to reduce the deficit to 3-2, a goal that seemed to have rejuvanated Talanta’s hopes of picking a point from the match as they pinned Stima in their area, but luck was not on their side.