Sofapaka romp into semis
Finlays Horticulture’s giant killing run in the GOtv Shield was brought to an end by Sofapaka in the quarter finals at the Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday.
Batoto ba Mungu’s John Baraza grabbed the all important goal in the 70th minute, perfectly positioning himself in the box to head in past Ali Ramadhan off a Bernard Mang’oli free kick.
Sofapaka were the earliest off the blocks with John Njoroge racing forward in the third minute but his run was stopped on the left side by a solid Alfred Chole albeit illegally, as signaled by referee Thomas Onyango.
The resultant free kick, swung in by Bernard Mangoli was well cleared.
The top flight side was clearly the dominant one with Finlays targeting attacks on the counter.
On the quarter hour mark, Sofapaka went close through Mustafa Kasolo after being picked out by a long defence splitting pass from his countryman Johnston Bagoole.
Kasolo, however, hit the post under pressure from Hillary Wandera and the rebound by John Njoroge flew agonisingly over. It was give and take as teams sought elusive goals.
On 21 minutes Anthony Kimani volleyed goalwards from the right wing with the ball dipping dangerously, forcing Finlays’ keeper Ali Ramadhan to tip it over for a corner.
The set piece, floated by Mang’oli found Felly Mulumba but he headed over from close range.
Six minutes later, Finlays went forward on the counter with Dennis Kalama racing to meet Yusuf Siruma’s long pass but Duncan Ochieng, sensing the danger, raced off his line to clear for a throw in.
Yusuf Juma went close on 34 minutes with a free kick after a foul on John Baraza but his effort was well matched by keeper Ramadhan in the Finlays goal.
The second tier side had appeals for a spot kick rejected by referee Thomas Onyango after the ball hit Felly Mulumba’s hand.
The Flower Men were at it again with a shot from Benlee Juma in the box but it was fired straight at Duncan as Finlays finished the half the stronger.
Sofapaka stepped on the gas in the second period, going close in the 51st minute through Mustafa Kasolo who had a brush at Bernard Mangoli’s free kick but his contact was not enough to direct the ball to the net.
Yusuf Juma then forced a save from Ali Ramadhan in the 52nd minute with a low cross that the keeper had to punch out for a corner with Kasolo just waiting to tap in.
The Nairobi side then had penalty appeals rejected two minutes later when Baraza went down under pressure from the Finlays keeper and two defenders before John Njoroge saw his close range shot saved by Ali in a spell of Sofapaka dominance.
On 58 minutes, Finlays threatened with their preferred counter attack strategy, Dennis Wafula going forward with pace to beat the Sofapaka defence but Duncan Ochieng cut his attempted cross to Benlee Juma.
Sofapaka then introduced Elli Asieche in place of Kasolo and instituted a change of game plan with Situma drawing back to defend and Bagoole pushed further forward into a midfield role but before the plan paid off, they had Duncan Ochieng to thank as the veteran keeper dived low to keep a hard Yusuf Siruma shot out in the 66th minute.
Three minutes later, Sofapaka won a free kick after a foul on Thomas Wanyama. Bernard Mangoli stepped forward to take it and picked out John Baraza at the far end who only needed to nod it past Ali for the opener.
Finlays should have had the equalizer on the 93rd minute but Alfred Chole, who managed to get to the end of a corner on a free header, hit it over to allow Sofapaka to run a few seconds as they secured a slot in the semi final.
In the semis, Sofapaka will meet the winner of the last quarter final pitting AFC Leopards against Karuturi Sport.