The second round of the national football league got underway yesterday after the one-week break to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The race for the title is still wide open. Saturday Sport takes a look at how the teams are fairing at the halfway stage.
APR FC: New head coach Nizar Khanfir, who was signed less than two months ago, was tasked to defend the title, and his team lead the league at halfway the season with 34 points.
In comparison with their closest rivals, the defending champions have improved in efficiency compared with this time last season.
They have been more effective, both on offensive and at the backline, scoring 21 goals and conceding just six in 15 matches—only second-placed Rayon Sports, with four, have let in fewer.
Rayon Sports: They will be feeling the pressure from the fans, nonetheless, in the second round; Djuma Masudi’s team, sitting just two points behind the leaders, is the best-placed to give APR a run for their money in the title race.
The results since Masudi took over at the start of last month, show, the Blues have a realistic target of winning the title.
Rayon Sports kick off the second round campaign against Marines FC at Kigali Regional Stadium on Sunday. In the last five away games, Rayon have performed well; winning four and drawing one.
Mukura VS: They have been the surprise team of the 1st round of the season; they have been the only team to worry all the other top sides. They have 32 points, level with Rayon Sports, and only in third place in the table, on goal difference.
Apparently, statistics show their attack is fine; having netted 22 goals, three less than Police FC, the league’s most lethal team in-front of goal, but their (Mukura) defense is not solid having conceded 12 goals.
With the 2nd half of the season likely to be a lot tougher, Godefroid Okoko will have to rely on the star man; Muhadjili Hakizimana, the league top scorer with 9 goals –A lot is going to have to come from him as well as fellow Rwanda international, Celestin Ndayishimiye.
Police FC: The law enforcers’ side have drawn more times than any side in the top 5, they’re currently in 4th place with 28 points, and possess the best striking force, which has netted the highest number of goals, 25, in 15 matches.
But then they’re shaky at the back-having conceded more goals (13) than any team in the top 5. Coach Andre Cassa Mbungo’s team have an uphill task on Sunday against Mukura at Kicukiro stadium.
AS Kigali: Fifth on the table, Eric Nshimiyimana’s side led the league for most part of the first round, but lost ground after losing their last three games against Mukura, Police and APR. The City of Kigali-sponsored side will begin their second round campaign away to Rwamagana City FC on Sunday.
SC Kiyovu: It may be too early to say they are not contenders but then it’s pretty obvious, coach Yves Rwasamanzi and his men have to bite the bullet! The title is not in their hands.
Sitting in 6th place with 23 points and little or no chance at all of making up the gap in the leaders, Kiyovu’s target for the season has to be to try to finish in the top four.
They have a few good individual players; right-back Fitina Ombalenga is good no doubt about that; a reason why he gets called up for national duty, and striker Andre Lomami is currently on form with 8 league goals so far.
Gicumbi FC: Emmanuel Ruremesha’s team still have a chance to finish in the top six, just as they did last season.
Their performance in the last 5 matches; 2 wins, 2 draws and one loss, gives their fans hope that the season can get better. The Gicumbi-based side are currently in 6th place with 21 points.
Bugesera FC: They gained promotion to the top flight this season, in 8th, position level on points with the team above them in the table after the first round of the season, shows why they set themselves a target to be a permanent fixture in the national football league.
The highlights for the Nyamata-based side during the first round, included a 1-0 win over high-flying Mukura VS, and drew 1-1 with AS Kigali and hammered bottom side AS Muhanga 4-1. If Abdul Bizimungu’s team maintains that form, they can finish in the top 7.
Sunrise FC: The Rwamagana side finished fourth last season, but their second season in the topflight division, is proving to be tougher for head coach Sosthene Habimana.
They are 9th with 19 points, a point ahead of Amagaju. They face bottom side AS Muhanga in the 2nd round opener. They have signed talented young midfielder Kevin Ishimwe from Rayon Sports to boost their squad in the second half of the season.
Marines FC: Currently on 11th position with 17 points, the message for the Abdoulkarim “Coka” Nduhirabandi and his men is loud and clear: try to win as many matches as possible and move away from near the relegation zone and finish as high as possible.
Musanze FC: They have scored the second highest number of goals of the teams in the bottom half of the table with 12, only Sunrise (17) have netted more, and have the meanest defence of that lot. George Semwogerere’s team face Sunrise in their second opener at Nyakinama stadium on Sunday
Rwamagana City: The newly promoted side have had a rude welcome on their debut season in the first division, collecting 9 points from 15 matches, just a point above the relegation zone.
Etincelles FC and AS Muhanga: These two have been the worst teams in the league from day one and if neither or both, makes significant improvement in the second round, there can only be one place for them at the end of the season—second division.