The top six teams in the men’s league are scheduled to play in the KHF Super Cup after the regular league concludes.
Kenya Handball Federation (KHF) men’s league champions National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) had to dig deep for victory against nemesis Ulinzi Handball Club in a 29-28 outcome.
The win brings Cereals one match away from completing their regular league matches, with the only match remaining scheduled for Sunday 7 November against Boomerang, with a win almost guaranteeing them the title.
“It was a tight match, albeit expected, we had to fight from the first to last whistle. Our game plan worked from the onset, as we had trained knowing they would try every possible way to reduce us to five men on offense by defending one of use high and they did exactly that, but we were ready.
In the second half we led by five goal but they changed their tact on defence and came to within a goal of equalling or even winning. We remained calm and I must admit that helped in bagging the win,” said NCPB captain Timothy Kirimi.
Both sides had scored five goals in the first ten minutes of the match, with NCPB getting a chance to go ahead with a 7-meter penalty shot taken by Kirimi that was effectively stopped by Ulinzi’s shot stopper Nicholas Otieno.
The sides were again tied at six goals with Victor Otuoma denying Ulinzi while Isaac Kololi send his shot on the crossbar while through on goal.
Clinton Maiko and William Malui were on the mark giving NCPB a two-goal advantage but Nicholas Ireri pulled one back for the millers to lead at 20 minutes.
Nicholas Okere and Malui handed NCPB a three-goal lead 7-10 but Noah Cheruiyot cut the advantage to two. Three quick Ulinzi goals, two from Frankline Kiplagat and one from Kevin Imo leveled the score at 12 but Thodosia Sangoro and John Wante restored a two goal advantage.
Peter Omondi caught Kevin Kibet, who had replaced goalkeeper Otieno on the Ulinzi goal, by surprise to take the difference to three goals as the match headed for the break with NCPB leading 13-16.
On resumption, it was Ulinzi who went on a rampage scoring three back-to-back goals to restore parity at 16, in the 33rd minute. Wante separated the score from the 7-meter line with Malui adding another from a fast break for the millers to lead 16-18.
Nicholas Onyango restored the difference to three goals for NCPB at 16-19. However, Musa Munyasia pulled one back but Malui was at hand with a reply immediately. Skipper Kirimi gave the millers a four-goal lead for the first time at 17-21 forcing the military side into a timeout to regroup.
Brian Wakukha made it a five-goal match with 41 minutes played with Munyasia twice reducing NCPB’s advantage to four at 25-21. Cheruiyot scored for Ulinzi to cut their deficit to three goals at 22-25.
With ten minutes on the clock and Ulinzi trailing by four goals, the military side was reduced to five men as Cheruiyot and James Ragen were penalised two minutes for dangerous tackles while on defence.
Wante and Sangoro suffered similar fates as NCPB conceded from the 7-meter line and again from a loose ball pounced on by Stephen Situma. Julius Berege scored to reduce the millers advantage to two goals at 26-28 with five minutes to play.
Ireri brought it down to a one-goal game while Berege equalled the score at 28. Maiko scored to give NCPB the advantage with a minute on the clock, despite having been reduced to six men after Omondi was penalised a two-minute suspension.
The final whistle went with Maiko mid-air, clear on goal to give his side a two-goal victory but with the win in the bag his jump quickly turned into a celebratory one with the knowledge that they had neutralised the threat and have a clear chance at another title.
“I am definitely disappointed with the outcome of this match because we had come here for a win which would have give us a chance at the title. There is room for improvement and we will keep working to win remaining league matches with the focus on claiming the Super Cup title,” said Ulinzi’s Ragen after the match.