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Nine things we learned in KPL Round Two

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By SAMUEL GACHARIRA
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Mathare United remained top of the SportPesa Premier League with a convincing 3-0 win over Nzoia Sugar while there was no reprieve for AFC Leopards in Round Two as they lost with a similar scoreline to Kakamega Homeboyz.

Bandari, Western Stima and Homeboyz kept pace with the leaders maintaining their perfect start to the season as record champions Gor Mahia, Kariobangi Sharks, Ulinzi Stars and Posta Rangers all chalked their first wins of the season.

Nation Sport presents the nine things we learned from the SPL this weekend:

Nyakeya could have one of his best seasons at Mathare

After a break-out campaign last term that saw him voted the Midfielder of the Year in the process scoring 14 goals and providing 10 assists, Cliff Nyakeya could go a notch higher this season if his bright start is anything to go by.

The youngster is finally playing at his preferred number 10 position thanks to the arrival of James Kinyanjui and Kevin Kimani who are now being deployed on the flanks. His prime instincts of speed, trickery and close control are being put to full use now that he is playing closer to goal and the returns are there to show.

So far, he is averaging a goal per match and considering the versatility of Mathare United’s attack he can even better his record. It was easy to man mark him as a winger last season but he now has more freedom in the final third in his new role. If he keeps finding the net, he will be a key contender for the Golden Boot and by extension the Most Valuable Player award at the end of the season.

One foreigner has to create room for Oliech at Gor

Reports indicate that former Harambee Stars captain Dennis Oliech is on the verge of joining record champions Gor Mahia. Oliech’s quality is not in doubt and once he hits full fitness, he will certainly be knocking at Hassan Oktay’s door for a place in the starting XI.

The big question however is who will pave way for the man regarded as Kenya’s alpha striker in the past decade. Upfront, Gor Mahia has four foreigners namely Burundian Francis Mustafa, Rwandese Jacques Tuyisenge, Ivorian Ephrem Guikan and Ugandan Erisa Ssekisambu.

While Guikan and Ssekisambu opened their accounts in the 4-0 rout of Zoo last Wednesday, Tuyisenge has already established himself as a regular following his exploits last season where he was the club’s top scorer in the league with 14 goals. Mustafa is still finding his feet after joining in June this year.

With Oliech in the picture and probably banging in goals, Gor will certainly have to offload one foreign striker due to lack of playing time. The big question is: Who will pave way for “The Menace”?

Depth makes Bandari genuine title contenders

There was no Bernard Odhiambo in Bandari’s defence but there were goals and three points against a formidable opponent, Sofapaka, on the road. What was billed as the highlight of Matchday Two culminated in yet another statement of intent from the Dockers.

Bernard Mwalala replaced Odhiambo with Brian Otieno handing the new signing from Nzoia Sugar his first start and bar Kepha Aswani’s early opener, his combination with Felly Mulumba at the heart of defence was one to admire.

Despite trailing at half time, Bandari rallied to win the match with the introduction of Wycliffe Ochomo proving to be the difference. To put it into perspective, Mwalala’s charges have scored four goals in two matches and all have come through four different scorers; Yema Mwana, William Wadri, David King’atua and Ochomo.

Thiong’o could be Nakuru’s new poster boy

Ever since John “Mo” Muiruri hang his boots, Nakuru has failed to produce a talent worth attracting admirers across the country. Ambrose Ayoyi is arguably one of the best talents to have come out of the town but days when Nakuru was considered a bedrock of talent are long gone.

Nakuru All Stars’ relegation from the second tier last season exacerbated the situation. In the recent past, John “Softie” Ndirangu and Boniface Akenga were tipped as the next big things of Kenyan football but they are yet to realise their potential since storming the top tier in 2014.

The brightest prospect from All Stars currently in the topflight, Peter Thiong’o, showed a glimpse of his talent against AFC Leopards at Bukhungu. He opened the scoring before setting up George Mandela and Maxwell Ravel for the 3-0 win.

If well nurtured at Kakamega Homeboyz both on and off the pitch, then Nakuru can dream of producing a key player for Harambee Stars in the near future.

His dribbling, decision-making, speed and touch bring back memories of the Golden Boy Ayoyi and the wizard that was Muiruri.

Muchiri’s spark could ignite Tusker’s campaign

The league is a marathon but the early days tend to shape the race for the title. As it stands, Tusker – who have only one point from two matches – are already playing catch up.

What’s even more worrying is the nature of opposition they have dropped points against. The brewers have lost five points against Western Stima and Sony Sugar. This season, Robert Matano has preferred new signings upfront ahead of the reliable Boniface Muchiri who was at the centre of Tusker’s resurgence last campaign after a horror start.

Michael Madoya and Bill Oporia have all earned places in the first eleven ahead of Muchiri and the lack of attacking threat from wide areas has been telling.

With a measly return of one goal in two matches against inferior opposition on paper, Tusker need to recall Muchiri to his first team.

If his form might have dipped in preseason, his statistics last term – 11 goals and nine assists – make a strong case for his inclusion. After all, class is permanent!

Ouna needs to shore up defence

KCB could have easily won against Ulinzi Stars at Afraha but they gave away cheap goals.

Elijah Mwanzia’s opener came from the spot after Baraka Badi needlessly fouled Daniel Waweru on his blind side while defending a cross. Despite Clinton Kisiavuki drawing level, the bankers’ defensive woes persisted as Ulinzi knit up a flowing team move from custodian James Saruni that culminated in a free header for Ezekiel Okare at the back post.

Peter Manyika’s howler gifted Ulinzi a third as Okare dispossessed him before Enos Ochieng’ finished into an empty net.

That loss means KCB remain without a point and have now conceded four in two games. Once again, they dominated the first half but had nothing to show for it. In fact, they trailed the soldiers at the break courtesy of Mwanzia’s penalty.

Frank Ouna now has two things to address; the organisation of his side defensively and scoring. While you need luck to score, defending is an all-round team function that the bankers need to master or else their poor run could stretch into their next three games where they face Bandari, Tusker and Mathare United. Tall order indeed!

Pamzo might stick with youth

Posta Rangers’ first win of the season came courtesy of two youngsters – Francis Nambute and Ken Mutembei. The pair started ahead of Gerson Likono and John Nairuka and they made their impact felt scoring in the 2-1 win.

Sammy “Pamzo” Omollo spent the transfer window shopping for fresh blood to revamp his ageing team. Francis Manoah and Brian Juma also joined as part of concerted efforts to give the team a new face. While it normally takes time for young players to settle in a different environment, this Posta side looks like the perfect blend for youth and experience.

With the young players already off the mark, it’s an encouraging sign for Pamzo to field them. If they keep on seizing their opportunities and scoring then why not?

Mwendwa ripe for Harambee Stars return

At his best, Harrison Mwendwa is a defender’s nightmare. Blessed with electric pace, trickery and an eye for goal, he is arguably one of the best wide players in the country at the moment.

After scoring in the season opener against AFC Leopards, Mwendwa came off the bench to inspire Kariobangi Sharks to their first win of the season. First, he produced a trademark run to slalom past several Sony Sugar shirts and set up Henry Juma before lobbing home over Kevin Omondi.

His second goal told the story of his resurgence at Sharks since joining them in January this year. Having regained his confidence, Mwendwa is slowly getting back to his peak and a return to the national team should have crossed his mind by now.

With Harambee Stars having qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, he needs to restore consistency in his game. In 2015 while at Mathare United, he was a regular call up during Adel Amrouche’s stint. If he can carry on with his form he might just as well catch Sebastien Migne’s eye.

Baraza has his work cut out

While Francis Baraza has a reputation of working with young players, his latest gamble with Chemelil Sugar might prove costly.

Only Nicholas Akoko, Musa Oundo and Dominic Kiprono have topflight experience in his team as currently constituted. After falling to Mathare United in their first match, a moment of brilliance from Gilbert Wangulu prevented them from suffering a second consecutive loss against Vihiga United at home.

That the Millers have now conceded thrice in the first half should be a cause for concern for Baraza because he could end up losing if his opponents close shop. Wangulu scored with only seven minutes left meaning that had the visitors held on, Vincent Wonder’s opener would have handed them maximum points.

Chemelil’s youthful side is certainly talented but the topflight demands maturity in key moments of the game. Baraza’s charges need time to gather experience but whether they’ll pick points as well as experience along the way remains to be seen.

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