By Steve Ayoo (@Steifmaster88)
Zoo Kericho protected their status in the Kenyan Premier League with an almost-dominant 2-1 win over relegated Thika United who failed to hold on to an early lead at their Thika sub-County Stadium.
Safety had not been guaranteed as Zoo paid Thika a visit, knowing that they could mathematically still be involved in a relegation/promotion scrap on the final day with defeat here plus if other results went against them.
And they got off to a bad start as Odongo pummeled home a right-footed half volley past Vincent Misikhu at the keeper’s near post just before the quarter hour mark. The goal arrived at a time when Zoo seemed to be getting a foothold in the clash with the front three of Bernard Odhiambo, Nicholas Kipkurui and Mike Madoya increasingly making themselves a nuisance.
Madoya twice spurned chances to draw Zoo level, his shot inside the box being bravely blocked by Idah before he volleyed over unmarked at far post.
Zoo should have been given a penalty just after the half hour mark when Isaac Kipyegon was pulled down in the box but the referee awarded the corner instead.
Kipyegon was Zoo’s main outlet down the left and he almost drew his side level with a right-footed stinger that missed the the far right post by an inch.
Zoo kept knocking in the final ten minutes of the half as Kipkurui saw this shot blocked after executing a lovely turn. With Thika now defending in numbers, the increasingly inevitable goal came 6 minutes to the half time whistle as Bernard Odhiambo unleashed a perfect volley outside the box that Eliud Emase no chance of saving.
Thika, who were barely attacking now, almost reclaimed their lead just before the breather as Heritier Luvualu saw his chipped effort cleared off the line by Johnstone Ligare after Misikhu had made an error of judgement in rushing off his line to deal with a ball he had no chance of reaching to.
Luvualu crafted the first neat chance after the interval when his free-kick at the hour was deflected just over. It was behind him however that things were happening rapidly as Emase made a brilliant one-on-one save do deny Odhiambo his second following a deft touch from Madoya.
However, the keeper was beaten just moments later as Kipyegon darted into the box before squeezing the ball between Emase and his near post as Zoo assumed the lead.
Odhiambo wasted two further chances as he sent two weak shots at Emase while in a prime position. They were almost made to pay at the death when substitute Hajji Mwachoki unselfishly found an unmarked Idah inside the box but the armband wearing centre half inexplicably headed over in front of an empty net.
That miss wrapped the points for Zoo, but more crucially secured their topflight status with two games in hand.
Millers also safe
Joining Zoo in the safety net were Sony Sugar who beat Posta Rangers 2-0 at Camp Toyoyo. The Millers were on a five-game winless run that had them sucked back into the relegation zone but this victory, delivered by a brace of goals from Meshack Karani, ensured Paul Odhiambo will have the chance to prove himself from the off when the new season begins in December.
Posta meanwhile are deeply in trouble ahead of the final matchday as they are involved in a three-team fight to avoid going for the playoffs.