The New Times (Kigali)

7 January 2013

Rwanda: Primus League Takes New Dimension

Almost half way through the season, seven teams are still in a close chase to win this year's Primus National Football League title.

This is a far cry from the past years when at this stage, the race would be between two or three teams at most as has APR dominated with 13 league titles in the past seventeen seasons.

Early season pace setters SC Kiyovu returned to the top of the table on Saturday, moving one point ahead of second and third placed AS Kigali and La Jeunesse. The reigning champions are in fourth spot, two points below the leaders.

Other teams in the race include; Police FC, Rayon Sport and newly promoted Musanze Football Club, who have surprised critics to stay within touching distance of the big guns.

Former champion SC Kiyovu 1-0 win against struggling Etincelles at Umuhanga Stadium took them to 22 points after 11 rounds of matches with a late Faustin 'Pendo' Habyarimana's powerful header securing all three points for the 'Green Baggies'.

AS Kigali missed the chance to maintain top position after losing at home to third-placed La Jeunesse 1-0, with Yusuf Habimana scoring an 87th minute winner.

Rayon Sport beat AS Muhanga 3-1 to move to 19 points, level with fourth-placed Police FC, who had their match against Espoir cancelled following a road accident that claimed the lives of four police officers on Friday.

Muhanga took an early lead through Crispin, but a brace by Burundian international Fuadi Ndayisenga and a goal from skipper Aphrodis 'Kanombe' Hategekimana helped the Blues to close the gap on the top teams and further boosted their hopes of pushing for the title, which they have not won since 2005.

Reigning champions APR won 2-0 over youthful side Isonga at Amahoro stadium with former Isonga skipper Emery Bayisenge haunting his old team-mates from the spot kick before APR Academy product Maxime Sekamana grabbed the second.

The army side moved to fourth position with 20 points and back in the hunt for a record-extending 14th league title after a slow start.

What the coaches said

After helping his team reclaim top spot, SC Kiyovu head coach Jean Baptist Kayiranga said he is happy with the win and hailed his players for their effort, but admitted he needs to add new faces to his squad if they are to stay in contention until the end.

"It is the first time that at this stage, more than two teams are in the race for the title. We have seven teams that one can say are in contention, if some don't encounter financial problems between now and end of season" Kayiranga told Times Sport on Saturday.

He added, "It's still too early to say we (Kiyovu) we are the favourites but it's no secret that we're among the contenders and we want to keep it that way for as long as we possibly can because APR, Police and Rayon Sport are picking up points and closing the gap,"

APR's Eric Nshimiyimana too is happy with the progress his young team is making and believes the more matches they win the more confidence they get, which can only be good news for the remaining part of the season.

He said, "As coach, it is good for me to see the team make good progress but we have to continue to work hard. To win the league will depend on hard work. The team is starting to gain confidence which is good for us as the season reaches the most crucial stage", he explained.

After thrashing AS Muhanga 3-1, Rayon Sport's Didier Gomez da Rosa acknowledged the win is a good sign of improvement.

"The team is starting to show signs of improvement and we need to maintain the momentum going into the second round. We've come from the bottom half and slowly we're putting points on board and closing the gap at the top. This win puts us right back into the title race," the Frenchman said after the match against AS Muhanga.

After eleven matches Etincelles still remain at the bottom of the table with juts 5 points, and the favourite for the drop.

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