Coach Baraza lauds fighting spirit after Gor loss

COACH BARAZA LAUDS FIGHTING SPIRIT AFTER GOR LOSS

Gor Mahia head coach John Baraza says he is pleased with the fighting spirit the boys showed despite going down by a solitary goal to reigning champions Gor Mahia in Nakuru on Sunday. Samuel Onyango’s 24th minute strike proved the difference as Sofapaka’s six match unbeaten streak was put to a halt.

“I think I am happy with the boys and a little disappointed with the result because at some point I think we deserved at least a point. We had the chances and we played really well,” the coach said.

He added; “I think I am more pleased by their fighting spirit because we never gave up fighting even when we were a goal down. We had to play the final 10 minutes with 10 men after Kilume (Mohammed) was injured and we still gave it a fight,” further stated the tactician.

The team now shifts focus to next Saturday’s assignment away to Kakamega Homeboyz and coach Baraza is confident the team will bounce back.

“We cannot put our heads down after this result. We move on with confidence and plan to do better in the next match,” stated the tactician.

SOFAPAKA LINEUP AGAINST GOR MAHIA FC

This is how we lineup for today’s match against Gor Mahia fc at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru on Sunday 17th February 2019 for the Sportpesa Premier League Championship as presented by our Head Coach John Baraza and the technical bench

Starting eleven include:

Justin Ndikumana .01 
Mohamed Kilume .04
Faina Jacobs .06
George Maelo .08 (C)
Pistone Mutamba .09
Umaru Kasumba .13
Moussa Omar .15
Elli Asieche .16
Titus Achesa .20
Brian Magonya .26
John Avire .40

SUBSTITUTES

Wakasala Isaiah .39
Ibrahim Kitawi .28
Soter Kayumba .24
Stephen Waruru .22
Tevin Omutere .19
Cornelius Juma .07
Willis Obayi .03

WE ARE READY FOR GOR, SAYS COACH BARAZA

Sofapaka head coach John Baraza believes last Tuesday’s victory against Mathare United will spur the side on when they take on defending champions Gor Mahia in Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium on Sunday.

The game had initially been set for Saturday in Machakos but was moved owing to Gor’s travel from Angola where they played a CAF Confederation game on Wednesday evening.

Baraza says his side is focused on collecting another three points, but concedes it will be a tough assignment against the holders who are enjoying good domestic form.

“Mathare is a top team and getting a win over them was important for our motivation as a team. For a team, winning against direct title rivals is always great and that pushed us somewhere on the table,” coach Baraza said.

He added; “Gor just like Mathare, Tusker and Bandari and now us, we are all in the title race. Winning against these teams is a top target for us because it will put us at some advantage,” the tactician further stated.

On Gor Mahia’s challenge; “They are a top team playing in continental football and they also have very good players. We have full respect for them and it will be a very tough match.”

The tactician has also provided an update on the injuries to Elli Asieche and midfielder Dennis Odhiambo.

“Elli had a small knock against Mathare but he is now okay and has trained well for the past two days. Dennis is not yet ready. He trained on Thursday but not entirely because it was his first day. This game is too early for him because his movement is not as sharp. Probably he will be ready in the next one week,” Baraza said.

ASIECHE READY FOR NATIONAL TEAM CHANCE

Sofapaka midfielder Elli Asieche says he is ready to take on the challenge of being called into the national team ahead of June’s African Cup of Nations. Asieche who is yet to be called into the national team in his senior career says it would be a dream come true if he got the chance.

“It would be great if the opportunity opens up for me. It is every player’s dream to play for the national team and for me it will be a big achievement.”

“I have played at the junior levels but yet to get a call up in the seniors. It would mean a lot to get that chance and every day I am working hard to see that dream fulfilled one day,” Asieche stated.

The midfielder has been in fine form over the last few matches scoring three goals and giving one assist and he hopes he can continue in this form for the remainder of the season to stand a chance with Harambee Stars.

“There has been a lot of freedom to play and that is why you find a player thrives. Also, we have been working hard as a team and everyone is performing their role well that is why it has been easier for me. Also, we push each other as players to perform well in every game,” he stated.

The midfielder added; “Team work and hard work have been the reason we are here today and as players we try to learn something new from every game. The hardr work does not stop here. We need to continue working,” noted Asieche.

On Sunday’s game against champions Gor Mahia;

“The win against Mathare has brought a lot of moral in camp as we head to face Gor. It will be a tough game because they are a good team we but will take this game just like any other and approach it with a lot of seriousness,” Asieche affirmed.

SOFAPAKA HITS MATHARE TO MOVE TO THIRD

Umaru Kasumba struck a brace as Sofapaka beat league leaders Mathare United 4-1 on Tuesday evening to move to within two points of the Slum Boys. Elli Asieche and Titus Achesa grabbed one each with former Sofapaka man kevin Kimani scoring the consolation for Mathare.

The victory took Sofapaka to third in the standings with 23 points, two behind joint leaders Mathare United and Bandari.

Sofapaka, on a run of four wins in five matches started the match strong and with just two minutes on the clock, the deadlock was broken. Citing keeper Allan Owiny yards off his line, Asieche took his luck striking a shot from distance which dipped under the keeper’s arms.

It was a confidence boosting goal that the team needed to get their feet firmly into the game. Brian Magonya should have doubled the tally in the 12th minute when he exchanged passes with Cornelius Juma to break into the box, but his eventual shot was a straight aim at Owiny.

Mathare’s first chance came in the 19th minute off a freekick from a good scoring range, but Kimani’s curling effort was well gathered by the impressive Justin Ndikumana.

On the half hour mark, Sofapaka made it 2-0 in emphatic fashion. John Avire stole the ball off Roy Okal before the midfielder brought him down. Achesa stood behind the freekick and took a decent curling effort that sailed into the top right, aided by a slight deflection on the wall for his first Sofapaka goal.

AT this point, it was Sofapaka all the way. Kasumba was in a decent position three minutes later when he swung a first time shot from the edge of the box, but it flew straight to Owiny.

On the other end, Mathare had a chance when a clearance from Mousa Omar landed kindly to Ahmed Ahmad, but the striker’s shot was wide.

Three minutes to the break, the game sailed to comfortable distance as Kasumba added the third. John Avire’s ferocious freekick was spilled by the keeper and Kasumba was quickest to react smashing the ball home.

Sofapaka was forced into an early sub when Asieche had to come off after a clash of heads celebrating Kasumba’s goal and was replaced by Kitawi.

In the second half, Mathare came back stronger and pushed Sofapaka to defend deep. Five minutes after the restart, Ndikumana was forced into a good save at his near post to deny Kevin Kimani who had been teed up by James Situma.

Kitawi had a great chance after 57 minutes when Avire picked him out with a good cross off the right, but he took way too many touches allowing the keeper to collect.

On the other end, Mathare had another chance off a setpiece, but Ndikumana was well placed again to collect. But, the hosts pulled one back after 72 minutes when Kimani stabbed hom from the right, beating Ndikumana at his near post.

Mathare pushed to try and cover the two goal deficit. While they pushed, Sofapaka should have taken the game to bed in the 80th minute when Magonya sliced the defense with a brilliant through pass to Avire, but the striker’s effort was wide.

Kitawi had another chance minutes later when he thrust forward from midfield, but he chose to pass instead of taking a stab at goal from a good scoring range. But Kasumba put the game’s tension to rest in added time.

Soter Kayumba took a freekick quick dipping it behind the defense and Kasumba did the rest, striking a thunderous effort past the keeper, the ball hitting the underside of the bar before crossing the line.

COACH BARAZA PRAISES FAINA’S PERFORMANCE

Defender Faina Jacobs has been on a stern rise over the last six games and head coach John Baraza has parsed the former Muhoroni Youth and Mount Kenya United man for coming of age and being part of a rock-solid backline.

Faina hadn’t played much in the opening exchanges of the season, but the defender, voted man of the match alongside Umaru Kasumba against Mathare United has seamlessly slotted into the team partnering Moussa Omar at the heart of defense.

“I played with some of these players and sometimes understanding them is easy. During my playing times, I faced Faina several times against Muhoroni Youth and he was very tough. When I took charge as coach I knew exactly where to use him because I knew his strengths and he has repaid that faith with some good performances,” Baraza noted.

In six games, the team has kept four clean sheets and conceded only three goals.

Meanwhile, the tactician has demanded more from the team despite Tuesday afternoon’s brilliant performance against Mathare that ended in a 4-1 victory at Kasarani.

“The journey still continues and I need more from the players. This was a good performance today. The goals have been flying in training and it continued to the match today. It was important for us to win especially against a side that tops the table,” the tactician added.

“We played against Mathare United in pre-season and at least we had an idea of how to come up against them and I am happy the strategy worked for us,”

“This victory has added the team confidence especially ahead of this weekend’s game when we play the defending champions Gor Mahia,” the tactician stated.

SOFAPAKA LINEUP AGAINST MATHARE UNITED FC

SOFAPAKA LINEUP AGAINST MATHARE UNITED FC

This is how we lineup for today’s match against Mathare United fc at Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi on Tuesday 12th February 2019 for the Sportpesa Premier League Championship as presented by our Head Coach John Baraza and the technical bench

Starting eleven include:

Justin Ndikumana .01 
Mohamed Kilume .04
Faina Jacobs .06
Cornelius Juma .07 
George Maelo .08 (C)
Umaru Kasumba .13
Moussa Omar .15
Elli Asieche .16
Titus Achesa .20
Brian Magonya .26
John Avire .40

SUBSTITUTES

Wakasala Isaiah .39
Ibrahim Kitawi .28
Soter Kayumba .24
Stephen Waruru .22
Tevin Omutere .19
Pistone Mutamba .09
Willis Obayi .03

We need to keep reducing the gap – Maelo

WE NEED TO KEEP REDUCING THE GAP: MAELO

Sofapaka defender George Maelo has insisted on the importance of picking up maximum points against Mathare United on Tuesday to see the team further reduce the gap with the league leaders.

Sofapaka is fifth in the Kenyan Premier League standings with 20 points, five behind leaders Mathare, but a victory on Tuesday afternoon at the Kasarani Stadium will see the team move all the way to second and bridge the gap to just five points.

“This will be like a derby of sorts. Mathare is a very tough team and they are in good form because they’ve lost only one match. We know the task ahead of us is huge but the only option for us is to win so as to bridge that gap,” Maelo said.

He added; “We had a target to win five games and we have done four so far. We need to get this and then we will be in a good position. The work is just starting for us and we need to keep going with this same momentum.”

Maelo has further praised the team spirit within the squad saying the cohesion has hugely grown and believes the team is now at a more balanced position.

“Everyone is working hard for each other in the game and in training, no one is assured of a starting place. Everyone has to work for his position and this has brought in a lot of improvement,” the experienced defender stated further.

COACH BARAZA IMPRESSED WITH TEAM DEPTH

In the wake of back to back matches and a heavy fixture load, Sofapaka head coach John Baraza believes the team will sustain the pressure especially because of a depth in squad with everyone in the 30-man team able to step in and play.

Sofapaka will be playing its third match in a week on Monday when they take on leaders Mathare United at the Kasarani Stadium.

“It is tough but we will manage because we have a very good squad. All the players are able to step up and get into the team and do well. I trust every player in the team and I know we will handle this kind of pressure,” the tactician stated.

The team picked up a fourth win in five games on Wednesday with a slim 1-0 victory over Nzoia Sugar in Machakos and Baraza praised his players for putting up a good fight especially against a very tough opponent.

“We knew that Nzoia is a tough team. They have always been tough for us but we managed to contain them and get a result. It is good that we are keeping on with our run and hopefully we can bridge the gap between us and the top teams by the time the first leg ends,” the tactician stated.

CHANGING FORTUNES AT SOFAPAKA DOWN TO UNDERSTANDING, AVIRE

Sofapaka Football Club are up next of the roster for log leaders Mathare United FC- a side that has not won in its last three matches in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL).

With a 1-0 dispatch of sugar millers Nzoia on Thursday, Coach John Baraza’s boys went up third on the 18-team KPL log a victory aided by striker John Avire who now says if they take on Mathare United like they have handled their last four outings- then he sees no reason why they shouldn’t close down the five point gap between them.

While speaking to Soka, Avire- a former Passenga High School student, hopes they can replicate their form when they face the slum boys next Tuesday.

”It’s a tough match for the both of us. They are top of the log and we have good form. However I trust we can win that tough encounter if we play the same way we have been doing in the last matches,” says Avire.

Sofapaka have picked maximum points in its last four matches- since Baraza took over the team. Asked what effected the change in fortunes, the 21 year old reveals that it has all been down to understanding one another. The team right now, has gelled properly and play with a lot more unity.

”Honestly not much has changed, we just understand each other very well and we work as a team. Everyone wants to win and the determination to go for maximum points has increased,” adds Avire who now has four goals in the league.

The four goals, scored against Mount Kenya United, Ulinzi Stars, Tusker and Nzoia means he stays two goals behind the leading scorer in the division Enosh Ochieng of Ulinzi Stars. The golden boot is every striker’s target he says.

”I personally want to score more goals, that’s what makes a striker happy. Right now we are at three goals with Umaru Kasumba in Sofapaka and we want to go for more. I only need to put in a little more effort and the golden boot will be mine,” he concludes.

Avire had brief spells at Kakamega Homeboyz and Bandari FC briefly after school in 2015. It was however at Mount Kenya United (Nakumatt) that he would find playtime- and form favorable and even got snapped up by Sofapaka at the end of the 2018 season.

Sofa are now at 20 points from 12 matches having won 5 and drawn 5.

This story first appeared at soka.co.ke