Can Mbungo break Gor’s dominance over Leopards?
- AFC Leopards head coach Andre Casa Mbungo believes AFC Leopards has a good team that can overcome rivals Gor Mahia, but insists good performance goes beyond a good team
- Mbungo will be looking for his first win against the 18-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions, when the two sides clash in Kasarani on Sunday in what will be their 88th league derby
AFC Leopards head coach Andre Casa Mbungo believes AFC Leopards has a good team that can overcome rivals Gor Mahia, but insists good performance goes beyond a good team.
Mbungo will be looking for his first win against the 18-time Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions, when the two sides clash in Kasarani on Sunday in what will be their 88th league derby.
While the Rwandese has seen a massive improvement in his team composition this season, ‘other factors’ could diminish his side’s ability in the season’s target.
“Having quality players is a key factor for success in football. However, it is not enough sometimes as several other contributing factors play in. There must be good management of the team. The welfare of the players must be guaranteed, so that as you plan for the whole season they feel comfortable to work for the long-term goal,” said Mbungo.
Having joined a long list of coaches who have sought to bring back the KPL trophy at the den since 1997 in vain, Mbungo says performance against Gor will be a real yardstick of the strides made so far in recapturing the lost glory.
“It will be very important to make the players and everyone to believe we are heading somewhere. We have to make sure we are winning against good teams Gor Mahia, teams which have been champions severally. This is the only way we can have a successful season,” he explained.
As an indicator of improved team, Leopards’ duo John Mark Makwatta and Benjamin Ochan were among the top three best players within September in the KPL, according to Sports Journalists Association of Kenya. Makwatta, who tops the scoring chart with five goals so far won with Ochan coming third behind Gor’s Kenneth Muguana.
While Leopards has not lost since their season opener against Kakamega Homeboyz away to Bukhungu Stadium, Gor lost their first match to Mathare United 0-1 on Wednesday.
The loss saw head coach Steve Pollack concede the situation at Gor is not good for the champions to work towards keeping their recent dominance over Leopards.
“Something needs to be done urgently if we are to win our next matches. I could not do the routine things I do before the match as some players missed in training. There are things that are not right that we will have to solve internally,” said Pollack.
Gor were without full-backs Geoffrey Ochieng and Wellington Ochieng, and influential midfielder Tobias Otieno. The return of the three, who according to the coach could have missed because of pre-match preparations, will be a big boost for Gor who also lost to DC Motema Pembe away to Kinshasa to crash out of the CAF Confederation Cup on Sunday.
The ‘factors’ pointed out by the two clubs are similar, having suffered the loss of sponsorship from betting firm SportPesa hence the struggle to pay players’ allowances.
Gor has dominated the recent meetings, the last Leopards win in the match christened Mashemeji Derby coming in 2016, courtesy of Lamine Diallo’s lone goal.
Last season, Gor won both legs of the league clash, a comfortable 2-0 and 3-1 respectively. Kenneth Muguna and former Gor midfield ace Francis Kahata scored one each in the first leg while in the reverse fixture; Nicholas Kipkirui scored a brace as now Pretro Atletico striker Jacques Tuyisenge added the third.
Simply, in the last six meetings including the Hull City Challenge and the Super Cup, Gor has won all.
Poignantly, the derby has not witnessed the traditional fracas to the extent of being abandoned, since 2015 when Leopards was sanctioned for the abandonment as Gor got three points and two goals.
Players to watch
Makwatta will be the main man to watch in Leopard’s side, with his scoring trend in the current campaign being the pride of the club. He has already said he wants the Golden Boot, and has specifically told fans the match is not special to him at all.
Whyvonne Isuza, who scored in their 2-1 loss to K’Ogalo in 2018 KPL first leg is threat worth noting, as well as Ochan who has been denying Leopards’ opponents to his fun this season.
In Gor’s squad, captain Kenneth Muguna who scored in their second last meeting remains the engine, a midfield maestro who can score when least expected.
If Francis Afriye, the Ghanian striker will be fit to play, Leopards will have a hard task to keep him off. Industrious Boniface Omondi who also knows the prestige of derby goals from his 2018 second leg goal is a threat if allowed to run.
Both teams have 15 points, although Gor has played two matches less hence their second spot on the log, one above Ingwe.
Tusker, who play KCB on Saturday, top the standings with 16 points from eight matches.
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