Nairobi — Stephen Owusu stepped off the bench to score the winner as Tusker FC bounced back to winning ways after a dry run of three winless matches, beating Zoo Kericho 2-1 at the Ruaraka Complex on Wednesday.
Danson Chetambe had drawn Zoo back level after Humphrey Mieno's opener, but Owusu tapped home a cross from another sub, Mike Khamati to ensure Tusker rose back to winning ways and revive their slim title retention hopes.
This comes as second placed Sofapaka suffered their first loss in five matches after going down 2-1 to Ulinzi Stars in Kericho, halting their perfect run and handing a huge advantage to leaders Gor Mahia who can open up a nine point gap with a win over Chemelil Sugar on Thursday.
Cliff Kasuto and Samuel Onyango scored as the military side got a much needed three points after drawing last weekend away to Muhoroni Youth. The three points hoist them to fifth in the standings, one point behind Kariobangi Sharks.
-Kariobangi Sharks beat Mathare-
Sharks picked up three points on Wednesday after a splendid performance at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani saw them spank relegation threatened Mathare United 3-0.
In Ruaraka, Tusker were in danger of another pressure piling loss, but they gave in a concerted last effort against a never say die Zoo to ensure they bagged the three points.
"Our problem has been scoring but today, we at least managed to get two goals. It is a huge sigh of relief for us and I hope this is the turning point for us ahead of the remaining 10 games of the season. We have to continue working hard," Omino told Capital Sport after the match.
His opposite number Sammy Okoth was left ruing concentration lapses especially with Tusker's winner having come against the run of play.
"It is disappointing though our performance today was better compared to last weekend. Our aim now is to ensure that we at least finish the season well and avoid relegation," Okoth said after the game.
Zoo were better starters into the match and Isaac Kipyegon had the game's first effort on target with a 12th minute freekick from the edge of the box that went straight to David Okello in the Tusker goal.
On the half hour mark, Nicholas Kipkurui had a brilliant opportunity after beating Okello to the ball at his near post from a Stanislus Akiya cross, but his nifty touch was inches wide.
Tusker had struggled to create chances with Zoo dominating most of the play Boniface Muchiri was the most lively of Tusker players and his shot from distance in the 32nd minute was turned behind for a corner by the Zoo keeper's fingertips.
Te visitors kept on pushing and Mike Madoya forced a brilliant save off Okello in the 40th minute with a wonderful volley from the edge of the box. The pint-sized midfielder looped the ball over an advancing Martin Kiiza before volleying on target but it was punched away.
Two minutes to the breather, Allan Wanga who was starting his first game for the brewers since the second leg had a chance from close range but he toe-poked the ball over after being flicked through by Muchiri.
Tusker seemed better organized in the second half and it took only seven minutes for them to get going. Mieno finished off calm and composed inside the box after beating the box from a Muchiri cross.
Three minutes later, Zoo keeper Samuel Koko made a brilliant fingertip save on the backfoot after Eugene Asike's freekick from the right seemed to be heading into the top left corner of the goal.
Tusker continued their dominance and Collins Shivachi came close with a freekick from the edge of the box which was spilled by Koko in the Zoo goal with the defense clearing away the spill.
However, against the run of play, Zoo got their song back, Chetambe tapping the ball over keeper Okello after racing on to a through pass from Kipkurui. Both Shivachi and Mieno raced back to try and poke the ball off before it went in but the ball crossed the line.
The equalizer gave Zoo the much needed adrenaline to push for a possible winner, but their efforts were nipped right in the bud nine minutes to full time when Owusu who had just come on for Kiiza tapped home a yard off goal from Khamati's delivery.
The brewers now move to sixth in the standings while Zoo remain 14th.