Second-half substitute Oliver Maloba scored an 85th-minute goal to hand City Stars a 1-0 win over hosts Ulinzi Stars in Ruaraka on Monday 18 April 2022 during a 26th round FKF Premier League tie.
Maloba, on for Charles Chale Otieno at the onset of the second half, ran into space to receive a sublime pass from Ezekiel Odera to fire home past an onrushing James Saruni for the deciding goal, his second of the season.
It was a game of two halves as Ulinzi Stars owned the first half but could not account for about six corners, freekicks, from a good range, and other open chances.
The two sides faced off at the same venue last weekend, in a rescheduled first leg game, each leaving scoreless in a 0-0 stalemate to share spoils.
In the second half of the Easter Monday game, Simba wa Nairobi came alive in the second half after Maloba’s introduction activated returning Anthony Muki Kimani in the mid of the pack allowing him to release passes forward.
The tale of two halves aside, and not to be ignored, was City Stars keeper Jacob Osano’s heroics. He produced a man-of-the-match performance as he checked all Ulinzi attempts to earn his tenth clean sheet, the eleventh for City Stars this season.
In the first minute of the game, City Stars sniffed at Ulinzi’s goal after Muki earned a free-kick only for left-back Herit Mungai to fire wide.
Ulinzi had an immediate response the next minute only for defensive midfielder Bernard Ongoma to copy Herit with his freekick.
Within the next six minutes, a determined Ulinzi had a near miss through Clinton Omolo’s header that weaved wide. That was followed by back-to-back corners that were all wasted. The second one was dangerous as Ongoma’s connection, a header, brought the best out of keeper Osano.
That save earned another fruitless corner but proved costly as there was a collision with stopper Boniface Andayi who had to leave the field of play 12 minutes later. He was replaced by Peter Glen Wafula.
At the quarter-hour mark, and two minutes later, Ulinzi let fly back-to-back freekicks from outside the box. Five minutes later Clinton should have sent Ulinzi 1-0 up but his goal-bound shot bounced off his teammate in the penalty area for a goal kick.
Two minutes after, Masita Masuta received a ball outside the boxfrom Ibrahim Shambi, off a buildup from left-back Harun Mwale, and then turned to fire home but it did not count as he was caught offside. In the 27th minute, Churchill Muloma rifled a ball goalward from a distance only for Osano to tip it for another wasted corner.
City Stars’, bullied off the ball in midfield all through, earned a freekick in the 38th minute that stopper Lennox Ogutu fired high up.
With a minute to the break, City Stars had to make changes bringing on stopper Kenedy Onyango for Salim Abdallah was forced out due to an eye injury.
In the second half, City Stars head coach Nicholas Muyoti tweaked his approach with the introduction of Maloba for Chale.
But before he could settle, a marauding Masuta found space on the left wing and fired a goalbound shot two minutes after the restart that Osano parried for a corner.
Within the next three minutes, City Stars had a corner of their own – the first in the game – that was ultimately wasted. Maloba was then to test Saruni’s palms moments later with a long-range shot. On the other end, Clinton fired from the left only for Osano to stop his effort.
City Stars freekicks by Muki and Herit in the 57th and 59th minutes went begging, with Saruni picking up the second one.
Four minutes after the hour mark, Ulinzi brought in Antonio Abwao for Ibrahim Shambi. The next minute Muloma went to the referee’s book for a challenge on Muki. The awarded freekick was wasted just as the one Ulinzi got two minutes later, floated by skipper Brian Birgen.
But within three minutes of that miss, Ulinzi had a shot at the near post through Clinton only for it to hit the side netting, and moments later Muloma fired a freekick wide.
In the 73rd minute, City Stars brought on Nicholas Kipkirui and John Kamau for Davis Agesa and right-back Kevin Chumsy Okumu who had been deployed on the right flank. Ulinzi countered that five minutes later with the arrival of Oscar Wamalwa and Enosh Ochieng for Clinton and Masuta.
In between the changes, Abwao, while in space, fired at goal only to see his effort ricochet off the base of the upright and out of play. The next minute, Osano denied Ulinzi when he stretched to force yet another corner.
With eight minutes left, Muki thought he had found the opener in the game when his long-range shot off the box echoed off the corner of the crossbar. It mattered little as, three minutes later, Maloba got to the end of Odera’s pass for the goal that decided the game.
The final minutes were tense culminating in a touchline scuffle that saw Abwao and City Stars assistant coach John Amboko slapped with yellow cards.
Right at the death, Osano firmly held onto a near-perfect Ongoma-powered freekick aimed for the top right corner. The game was soon to end with Ongoma earning a yellow card for holding onto a City player.
With the win, the 13th of the season, and second straight away to Ulinzi, City Stars hit the 45-point mark to stay third, one point behind champions Tusker, as the soldiers remain 15th with 27 points.
Next up for City Stars is a home game in Ruaraka against Sofapaka on Saturday 23 April 2022 starting 3 pm.
Ulinzi Stars: 1. James Saruni, 35. Brian Birgen (C), 31. Boniface Andayi (3. Peter Glen Wafula-20), 12. Bonventure Muchika, 30. Harun Mwale, 21. Benard Ongoma, 6. Churchil Muloma, 7. Clinton Omondi (Oscar Wamalwa-76), 11. Stephen Etyang, 24. Masita Masuta (25. Enosh Ochieng-76), 39. Ibrahim Shambi (3. Antonio Abwao-64)
Unused subs: 13. Stephen Ochieng(GK), 2. Byron Odiaga, 32. Kevin Thairu, 33. Julius Nabutete, 18. Boniface Onyango
Coach: Benjamin Nyangweso
Nairobi City Stars: 16. Jacob Osano, 8. Calvin Masawa (C), 28. Herit Mungai, 27. Lennox Ogutu, 4. Salim Abdalla (25. Kennedy Onyango-45), 18. Sven Yidah, 19. Kevin Okumu (17. Nicholas Kipkirui-72), 3. Charles Otieno (21. Oliver Maloba-46), 30. Anthony Kimani, 11. Davis Agesa (15. John Kamau-72), 32. Ezekiel Odera (7. Rodgers Okumu-85)
Unused subs: 1. Elvis Ochoro, 2. Elvis Noor, 26. Dennis Wanjala, 5. Michael Madoya
Out: 6. Ronney Kola, 9. Vincent Otieno Okoth, 12. Edwin Buliba, 14. Rowland Makati, 10. Peter Opiyo, 20. Timothy Noor Ouma, 22. Wycliffe Otieno, 23. Stephen Njunge, 24. Erick Ombija, 29. Augustine Kuta, 31. Mohammed Bajaber
Coach: Nicholas Muyoti
Ulinzi Stars: 6. Churchil Muloma (65), 3. Antonio Abwao (88), 21. Bernard Ongoma (90+)
Nairobi City Stars: John Amboko – Assistant coach (88)
Nairobi City Stars: 21. Oliver Maloba (85). Assist – 32. Ezekiel Odera