Leopards claw up to KPL top spot despite Ulinzi stalemate
AFC Leopards clawed their way to the top of the Kenyan Premier League table on goal-difference after sharing a barren stalemate with fellow domestic giants Ulinzi Stars FC in Machakos on Wednesday.
Ghanaian import Gilbert Fiamenyo forced the Ulinzi rearguard into last ditch action to prevent him from opening the scoring twice in the first half before Leopards keeper Ian Otieno pulled off a blinding save with 10 minutes to go from a Cliff Kasuti header to maintain parity.
Following the draw, Leopards top the nascent KPL standings on seven points, level with Bandari FC with record champions, Gor Mahia sitting third one adrift of the early pacesetters.
The Soldiers are tenth on the log as one of the four teams tied on four points.
After a cagey opening ten minutes of the clash played at the Kenyatta Stadium, Leopards fashioned the first raid on goal when Marcellus Ingotsi floated in a teasing cross from the right that was gathered by Ulinzi custodian James Saruni to snuff out the danger.
Robinson Kamura was the next Ingwe player to test Saruni with a free-kick but the keeper was equal to the effort before releasing Evans Amwoka on the counter but the Ulinzi player’s charge into the Leopards’ territory was halted by a foul.
In the 23rd minute, Leopards were awarded a dangerous free kick when Saruni was adjudged to have handled the ball outside the area that came to naught.
Stewart Hall’s charges through their striker Fiamenyo then spurned the first of two great opportunities to open the scoring when the Ghanaian snapped the Ulinzi offside trap and rounded Saruni before veteran Geoffrey Kokoyo raced back to poke the ball away for a fruitless corner in the 35th.
The soldiers were once again rescued by heroic defending five minutes later, this time Mohammed ‘Rio’ Hassan thwarting Fiamenyo through a superb sliding block when Kokoyo lost the ball and allowed the Ghanaian to pounce as the teams went to the breather level.
Ulinzi boss Benjamin Nyangweso made two quick substitutions soon after halftime, withdrawing Stephen Ochola for Kasuti as Churchill Muloma came on for Daniel Waweru.
Hall responded by hauling off Ingotsi with Andrew Tololwa, one of the surviving members of the pre-season purge at the Den coming on.
There was however, little goal mouth action as the game petered out to a draw until when Otieno, who was largely unemployed in the Leopard’s goal showed great reflexes to thwart Kasuti from point blank range to preserve a share of the spoils.
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