AT THE NYAYO NATIONAL STADIUM
The 2016 Kenya Premier League action came to an end on Saturday, with Tusker being crowned champions at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.
The brewers confirmed their status as the 2016 league champions two weeks ago after slaying AFC Leopards 1-0 at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru but it was Saturday’s crowning moment that put a gloss on a season that has seen Tusker win the highest number of matches at 17, drawing 10 and losing three.
Allan Wanga, who added impetus to Tusker’s title campaign after joining midway through the season from Tanzania’s Azam, again lived to his huge reputation, coming off the bench to score a beautifully executed free kick in the 77th minute to hand his side a 1-0 win against Gor Mahia.
Wanga then broke into a Rhumba dance in celebration. The win reinforced the narrative that the brewers were the best this term.
“I lack words to capture this moment. We have won two major titles and I thank our bosses for having made this possible through good preparations.
We now have to prepare adequately for the Champions League and We’ll play friendlies against top sides to be ready,” Situma said shortly after lifting the trophy.
Utility player Osborne Monday, who’s been phenomenal through the campaign, added: “I’m going to celebrate with my family. This us is truly deserved. Team work did it for us.”
Tusker chairman James Musyoki was at Nyayo to cheer his team to victory.
At the Thika Municipal Stadium, it was song and dance as Sofapaka escaped relegation after routing Thika United 5-1. The victory saw Sofapaka tie on 26 points with Ushuru who were clobbered 3-1 by Posta Rangers to be relegated on an inferior goal difference.
In Nakuru, John Mark Makwatta claimed the Golden Boot on 15 goals after scoring twice in the 4-2 win over Bandari.
By laying their hands on the spanking trophy introduced by the title sponsors SportPesa last term, Tusker ended the heartache of the last three years when they played second fiddle to K’Ogalo but will no doubt take pride in having ended the stranglehold of the record 15 champions Gor Mahia.
Their win of the gong brings to 11 the number of league titles they have won since they were founded but the tough task will now lie in putting up a solid side that can challenge for honours at the elite Caf Champions League next year.
On an afternoon that the Nairobi skies were largely cloudy, Tusker’s crowning was bereft of the pomp and colour that has been a hallmark of their arch rivals Gor in recent years.
This is largely due to the champions low fan base, while the vocal Green Army conveniently chose to stay away from the venue.
On the pitch, Gor bossed proceedings in either side of the half but were undone by the very malaise that has undermined their campaign – the lethargy in front of goal.
Collins “Gattuso” Okoth missed the opportunity to fire Gor ahead at the stroke of half time with a sliding effort three minutes after Meddie Kagere’s rasping drive missed the mark.
Kagere was to miss again after the interval while Tusker’s striker Michael Khamati left his bench in disbelief at the hour mark after his goal bound effort from close range was cleared off the line by Gor’s Harun Shakava before Francis Kahata’s 20 yard thunderous drive bounced off the cross bar in Tusker’s goal.
In a season where all the top teams blew hot and cold, it was the brewers who won when it mattered the most to cart the trophy and leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the K’Ogalo nation.
AFC Leopards 1-2 Muhoroni Youth, Chemelil Sugar 1-0 Mathare United, Gor Mahia 0-1 Tusker, City Stars 1-2 Sony Sugar, Posts Rangers 3-1 Ushuru, Sofapaka 5-1Thika United, Ulinzi States 4-2 Bandari, W Stigma 0-0 KK Homeboyz.
Additional reporting by Titus Maero and Francis Mureithi