3 January 2019

Kenya: Mathare United Dare to Dream in Title Race

A terrific start to the 2018/19 SportPesa Premier League (SPL) campaign has left Mathare United dreaming of reclaiming the crown.

The Slum Boys, who last clinched the league gong 11 years ago, top the 18-team log with 13 points after handing Kenya Commercial Bank their fourth defeat with a 2-1 win on Wednesday at Kasarani stadium.

The Francis Kimanzi-led team, who've a draw (0-0 against Ulinzi Stars on December 22) with four wins so far, opened a two-point gap over returnees Western Stima who sit second after five rounds.

Mathare, who are unbeaten so far alongside Kariobangi Sharks, Bandari and Western Stima, host defending champions Gor Mahia on Sunday in an anticipated big battle of the weekend.

"We've matured compared to last season, every department is improving match by match and we are playing well, so far we've just conceded two goals," Mathare's sensational midfielder Cliff Nyakeya said.

The 2018 SPL midfielder of the year has been key to the club's fine form scoring four goals and providing two assists.

"We are contesting for the title, we struggled last year but have since gained experience and matured mentally. If we concentrate well, take each game at a time and play as a team, we got a chance to get something this season," said Nyakeya, who netted 14 goals to steer the team to an eighth place finish with 48 points from 34 matches last term.

Favourites Gor Mahia and 11-time holders Tusker could stand in Mathare's charge for the coveted trophy.

On form midfielder Sydney Ochieng' claimed a brace as Robert Matano's Tusker as they beat Vihiga United 2-0 to move third on 10 points.

"My target is to improve as a player by delivering on the pitch whenever given a chance by the coach so that in the end the team can achieve its objectives of winning the league," the former Palos and Western Stima midfielder, who has bagged three of the nine goals Tusker has scored this season, noted.

The brewers broke Gor Mahia's dominance on the local scene by winning the 2016 title and went on to complete the double after claiming the domestic cup.

"Every team wants to win the league but for now Gor are the favourites because they are the defending champions," opined Matano, who won titles with Sofapaka and Tusker in 2009 and 2012 respectively.

Ninth-placed K'Ogalo, who've two wins and as many losses with a game in hand, believe all is not lost, despite a bad start and soon they will be back where they belong, according to utility player Philemon Otieno.

"Among our targets this season, retaining the title is one of them," he said.

Winless KCB and rebranded Mount Kenya United are stuck in the relegation zone with a point each, while Posta Rangers are in the dogfight position with three points.

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