BY STEVE AYOO
Danson Chetambe drilled home the equalizer with a well-taken second half freekick to earn Zoo Kericho a 2-2 draw against Tusker FC at the Ruaraka Grounds and keep their topflight survival chances raging on.
Kevin Omondi had canceled David Majak’s Tusker opener as the two sides went to the break on level terms.
Boniface Muchiri pulled the Brewers back in the lead with an exquisite freekick that Zoo keeper Martin Elung’at helped into the back of the net. However, Chetambe wouldn’t let himself be outshone as he thumped home even a better freekick with five minutes to the final whistle.
Zoo, who lost the first leg 1-0 and the corresponding fixture last season by the same scoreline, had given a good account of themselves and mostly kept Tusker at bay before the Brewers assumed the lead.
Faraj Ominde found Majak lurking inside the box and the lanky striker needed no further invitations as he thumped home.
Jackson Macharia then failed to make Elung’at sweat with an effort inside the area as the Brewers began to assert authority.
However, no sooner had the rains started pouring than Zoo found the leveler as Omondi booted home after a cross from Ernest Kipkoech evaded the attention of Hillary Wandera and the entire Brewer’s defence.
Kipkoech thought he had grabbed a second assist when his cross was met by Derrick Amani but Robert Mboya made a good save, and so did Elung’at on the other end as he thwarted Innocent Wafula with the two sides trudging off the soggy pitch for the half time break level.
From the break, Tusker coach Robert Matano made a double change as Timothy Otieno and David Natfali replaced Peter Nzuki and Macharia.
The changes seemed to work in Zoo’s favor as Chetambe asserted himself in midfield, increasingly getting into some promising attacking positions.
And with the pitch now drenched and slippery, the two sides found it hard to keep the ball on the ground, although Zoo seemed a wee bit more comfortable than their hosts.
The visitors could have taken the lead midway into the second half but Mboya made a superb double save to deny Chetambe inside the box.
Yet, it was Tusker who reclaimed their lead 15 minutes to the end as Muchiri’s freekick from the right went in despite Elung’at getting a strong hand on it, the slippery surface affecting the keeper’s agility.
Zoo, well aware that a point rather than none would help their survival course, kept negotiating the tricky playing surface, mixing it long and short as Tusker kept backtracking.
The Kericho side got their reward five minutes to the end as Chetambe hid his freekick into the top right corner with Mboya standing no chance.
The point, although not enough to haul them off relegation trouble, sees 16th-placed Zoo move three clear of Vihiga United who currently occupy the final automatic relegation slot.
With two matchdays left, they sit only two points behind Chemelil Sugar and Posta Rangers who are in the passing lane.
Zoo’s final two matches will be at home to Kakamega Homeboyz and away to KCB FC.
In the only other match played Thursday, AFC Leopards scored twice after the break to beat relegated Mount Kenya 2-0 in Machakos.