Lawrence Juma’s stunning volley on 35 minutes was all Sofapaka needed to tame leaders Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) 1-0 in a closely contested Football Kenya Federation Premier League match at Ruaraka grounds on Saturday.
The loss is a major set back to the bankers as the race towards the June 30 deadline when the name of the team at the top of the log will be submitted to Caf as the country’s representative to the Champions League next season.
Following KCB’s loss, 13-time champions AFC Leopards can open a three-point lead at the helm of the league on Sunday if they beat newbies Bidco United at the same venue.
Leopards are joint top with KCB on 36 points but have an inferior goal difference. KCB have now played 18 matches while Leopards 17.
Tusker could also move top of the standings with a win over Vihiga United also on Sunday in Mumias if Leopards fail to beat Bidco.
This was Juma’s ninth goal of the season, five shy of leading goal scorer Eric Kapaito of Kariobangi Sharks.
The win put to an end a two-match winless run for Batoto ba Mungu since the league resumed on May 14.
They had lost 2-1 to Gor Mahia on May 20 and suffered a shock 3-0 defeat to league returnees Nairobi City Stars last weekend.
Sofapaka have now taken their points tally to 22 and leapfrogged Bidco into 11th on the standings.
At Ruaraka, KCB were the better side in the opening half hour of the game, but Sofapaka steadily found their footing in the last 15 minutes of the first half.
KCB striker Reagan Otieno troubled Sofapaka defence duo of Rwandan Isaac Mitima and captain Mike Kibwage with custodian Kevin Omondi forced into a number of saves early on.
Reagan Otieno took a nice free-kick on the left but his effort was parried for a corner by Omondi on 11 minutes.
The bankers almost took the lead in the 18th minute, Curtis Wekesa unleashing a close range shot with Omondi off his line but it went inches wide for a goal kick.
Sofapaka’s first chance came at the half hour mark, Juma combining well with Alex Imbusia to pick out Piston Mutamba but the lanky striker fired into the waiting hands of KCB’s custodian Joseph Ochuka.
Juma then gave Batoto ba Mungu the lead 10 minutes to the break with a well-timed volley that Ochuka failed to deal with.
Sofapaka then dictated proceeding, youngster Ambrose Sifuna dribbling on the left past before releasing a cross which was cleared by Nahashon Alembi to deny Mutamba who was ready to pounce.
Sofapaka tactician Ken Odhiambo made the first change in the contest, David King’atua coming on for Alex Imbusia on 51 minutes.
Coach Zedekiah Otieno followed suit with a triple substitution at the hour mark, Reagan Otieno, Wekesa and Henry Onyango paving way for Victor Omune, Samuel Mwangi and Michael Oduor.
Nigeria attacker Sunday Ikekhai, who had replaced Mutamba, saw his effort hit the cross bar with KCB goalkeeper Ochuka beaten six minutes from time.
The league takes a two-week break to pave way for Betway Cup which continues on Madaraka Day.