At the end of a fiercely contested barren draw, mixed emotions gripped the fully packed Kericho Green Stadium. On the green end, the home side Zoo Kericho, thought they had done everything right but were denied by a perfect display from our custodian Levis Opiyo. While on our end, we were not sure of celebrating a point on the road perhaps because we thought we deserved to bag the maximum points had we converted our best chances of the game in the opening quarter hour.
It was by far the best start we have had this season in any league match. In a span of five minutes, our top scorer Chrispin Oduor had two open chances but his shooting boots were missing. Elijah Mwanzia, who was making his debut, did well to glide past his marker before releasing Daniel Mwaura down the right with a clever through ball. The Kenyan international did well to pick out Oduor unmarked in the six yard box but his finish was disappointing flying over the bar with the goal gaping in front of him.
Moments later, Tyson Otieno embarked on his trademark solo runs dancing past four defenders before slipping the ball into the path of Oduor who was now clean through on goal. With only Misikhu to beat, Oduor took an age to shoot allowing Sindani Sabiri to recover with a neat slide tackle and avert the danger.
Our bright start continued into the seventh minute this time Mwaura beating his marker for pace but he applied too much power on his cross failing to find the advancing Elijah Mwanzia. Zoo sought a reply on the other end through Nicholas Kipkirui whose effort was feeble causing Opiyo little trouble.
Then another chance went begging for the visitors. Otieno played a short corner to Mwaura who floated a dipping cross into the area that was knocked down by Mwanzia for his fellow debutant Ronald Reagan. The June signing did well to power a low shot towards goal but it was bravely blocked by Zoo skipper Johnstone Ligare.
Kipkirui was proving to be an important outlet for the hosts in attack and he almost orchestrated the breakthrough against the run of play. A burst of pace down the right saw him leave Lennox Ogutu in his wake and found his strike partner Demonde Selenga with a cutback but the Congolese import had a poor first touch that made things easy for Opiyo.
A scrappy period of play ensued thereafter with Martin Ongori and Dennis Otieno being the victims landing into Moses Osano’s book for a reckless tackles on Kipkirui and Oduor respectively. With the half time break approaching, Reagan had a glorious chance to set us on the ascendancy but his shot went straight to Misikhu.
Zoo head coach Sammy Okoth played his first card at the restart introducing Ernest Kipkoech for the off-colour Selenga. The substitution almost bore fruit three minutes later when miscommunication between skipper George Owino and Opiyo allowed Kipkoech to pounce on an innocuous flick on by Kipkirui. However Opiyo showed great reflexes to keep out Kipkoech’s effort with his fingertips.
That moment sparked some movement on our bench with Chris Ochieng’ joining the fray at the expense of Mwanzia. The tale of missed chances persisted at the hour mark as we came close to breaking the deadlock on two occasions. First, Owino watched in dismay as his glancing header missed the target narrowly after connecting to Tyson’s delivery from a corner. A well worked move down the right then culminated in Ochieng’ teeing up Mwaura for a shot but the ball squirmed inches over the bar.
The moment Zoo fans, including Kericho County Governor Paul Chepkwony, silently craved almost arrived on the other end when a long ball from Ligare took an awkward bounce and landed on Kipkirui’s feet. However Opiyo reacted quickly to come off his line and gather cleanly at his feet. Kipkirui was proving to be a menace and shortly afterwards he scurried past Olwande on the right, sent a dipping cross into the area that was only kept out of a lurking Kipkoech by Opiyo’s acrobatic save.
Okoth sought more attacking inspiration from Kepha Ondati on the bench yet it was Mathare United who almost took the lead this time Reagan missing the target with a powerful drive from the edge of the box. That proved to be his last contribution as he was withdrawn for Harrison Mwendwa as the final quarter edged closer.
Danger man Kipkirui was beaten to the ball by Opiyo in a one on one situation in the closing stages as Kimanzi introduced Abubakar Keya to provide more defensive cover and salvage a point.
The result leaves Mathare United in 17th place level on 11 points with bottom placed Western Sima who have an inferior goal difference. League action resumes on Saturday 15 July with a home match against 13th placed Sony Sugar.