Ulinzi Stars on Tuesday moved into fourth place in the SportPesa Premier League standings after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Chemelil Sugar at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru.
It was a sweet victory for the sluggish soldiers who lost to the sugar millers 2-1 in the first leg in May.
But it was not a vintage Ulinzi Stars performance, with soldiers having not picked their sparkling form which saw them maintain a steady win in the opening stages of the campaign before they started a downhill run.
A winless run of seven league matches, which included three straight defeats in their last three outings, had seen Benjamin Nyangweso’s charges drop to sixth on the standings before Daniel Waweru’s penalty against Chemelil lifted them to fourth.
Ulinzi, who are preparing to travel to Burundi to defend the East African Military Games title on Thursday, looked sluggish in the cagey affair at Afraha.
After 17 minutes, the soldiers were awarded a controversial penalty kick by referee Nyabera Libese after defender Clifford Omondi was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box.
Waweru sent Chemelil custodian Jairus Adira the wrong way for his fourth goal of the season.
Ulinzi upped the tempo after the goal, but efforts to find a second before the break were thwarted by a resolute Chemelil defence.
Enosh Ochieng came close to doubling up the scores for Ulinzi but his rocket inside the danger zone missed the target seven minutes into the second half.
Chemelil came close to levelling matters in the 56th minute, but goalkeeper James Saruni’s full stretch save from a Smith Ouko corner kick rescued the soldiers.
Ulinzi midfielder John Kago had a fine chance on the hour mark, but could only direct his shot over the crossbar.
Nyangweso introduced the league’s leading top scorer Stephen Waruru and midfielder Bernard Ongoma for Enosh Ochieng and Waweru but their efforts to extend their lead were fruitless.
On the opposite side, Chemelil coach Abdallah Juma brought on Collins Neto and John Mwita for Clifford Omondi and Moses Arita.
These changes injected some pace in the sugar millers attack with Saruni forced to come out of his position to save the soldiers severally as Chemelil raided late on.
Nyangweso admitted that his charges are yet to find their winning style after the match.
“We must put more pressure as the league enters its penultimate stage because any further slip would be catastrophic,” said Nyangweso.
“We were penalised because of a fake penalty and it is evident that after they scored that goal the soldiers retreated to their comfort zone,” said a visibly angry Juma.