Thika United head coach John Kamau has encouraged the teams’ U-19 squad currently under coach Moses Irungu to stay focused after edging out Gor Mahia 1-0 at City Stadium on Monday.
“I am glad with the development of both the team and my deputy coach Irungu in the way the team is developing and my advice to the young lads is to have some positive fun in this tournament.
I have urged them not to over pressurize themselves with the defending champions stigma, but rather play football to the fullest and the rest will align itself,” Kamau told the club’s official website.
Thika, who are the defending champions, scored through Hector Mbunde in the 42nd minute of the closely fought match, and will now qualify for the quarter-finals if they stop Mathare United in their second match at the same venue on Wednesday.
Gor Mahia fielded a side comprising of FISA Academy players. Thika’s charges were led by senior team players John Nairuka, Jackson Machariah and Antony Gicho.
Gor Mahia had the early chances of the game and they had a great chance to open the scores in the 36th minute, Evans Amimo’s header coming off the bar. Thika United’s defense was found flat footed by George Otieno’s cross and they were lucky Brian Chege failed to guide the ball home from the rebound.
Thika took their chance seven minutes later, Hector Mbunde making the most of Badi Baraka’s ball to slot past Ezekiel Onyango in Gor Mahia’s goal. Going into the second half, Thika never relented the attacks and in the 53rd minute, Onyango was forced to a full stretch save to deny Michael Omach.
In the afternoon, Mathare United have a date against Karuturi Sports while Tusker FC confronts Chemelil Sugar, both matches at the City Stadium.Meanwhile, Sony Sugar started the tournament on the right footing after edging out City Stars1-0 in a Group 'B' match. The 16-team youth tournament involving clubs from the premiership, will be staged over a two-week period in Nairobi at City Stadium and Hope Centre, Kawangware.
AFC Leopards, semi-finalists in the inaugural tourney, and who were the first team to submit their list of players, are drawn against their “brothers” Kakamega Homeboyz, Western Stima and Bandari in Group C, while Group D has Ulinzi Stars, KCB, Sofapaka and Muhoroni Youth.
The two top placed teams in each Group will advance to the quarters of the competition. The premiership body is bankrolling the event including provision of accommodation for participating teams to the tune of Sh5 million.
Group A: Thika United, Mathare United, Gor Mahia, Karuturi Sport
Group B: Sony Sugar, Tusker, Nairobi City Stars, Chemelil Sugar
Group C: AFC Leopards, Kakamega Homeboyz, Western Stima, Bandari
Group D: Ulinzi Stars, KCB, Sofapaka, Muhoroni Youth