Leopards keep title chase on with Sofapaka win


Kepha Aswani of AFC Leopards
Kepha Aswani of AFC Leopards

AFC Leopards kept their SportPesa Premier League title push by coming from behind to secure a 2-1 victory over struggling 2009 champions, Sofapaka FC at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.

Brian Nyikal stunned the table-toppers with the opener after only 56 seconds of the game before Kepha Aswani hauled Ivan Minnaert’s side level after 10 minutes.

The introduction of Allan Katerrega in the second half sparked Ivan Minnaert’s side to chase the winner that came on 70th when the substitute set up Simon Abuko who beat former Leopard’s keeper, Barnabas Tiema with a header.

Victory lifted Ingwe to the top on 17 points top put pressure on Tusker and Mathare whilse Sofapaka slumped to their sixth straight defeat to put them in real danger of relegation.

Ingwe boss Minnaert was not impressed by his side’s laboured victory that saw the team bounce back from a first defeat of the season to Nairobi City Stars last week to restore their title charge.

“In the second half, we took the game in our hands. We made too many mistakes in midfield and that is something we need to work on. Today we had two points we did not merit and last week we had three less but it’s good to win

“Kateregga is good when coming in because he can make a difference. It’s a shame for him because I like players who can play 90 minutes. When he starts he does nothing, when he comes in he does things that can change a game,” the Belgian stressed post match.

“My players know they must perform, if they don’t perform, they stay on the bench,” he warned.

His mood was darkened inside the first minute from kick off when a lapse of concentration at the back saw Nyakan score past Lucas Indeche for the fastest goal of the season thus far as Sofapaka enjoyed a dream start in the ‘Cat Derby.’

Ingwe clawed their way back and did not take long to fashion an equaliser when Andrew Tololwa crossed for Aswani to beat Tiema with a header for 1-1.

Leopards then took charge and on the 27th Hedmond Mauda fired from just outside the box but Tiema was alert to the danger and a minute later, teammate Victor Omune tried his luck from range but the Sofapaka keeper held on to the ball.

Tiema who had a busy afternoon saved from Yusuf Juma’s free-kick on the half hour mark before Aswani and Maunda failed to fashion a finish inside Sofapaka’s box after a melee that saw desperate defending deny Ingwe a second goal.

The 2009 champions then broke away in the 33rd with Kenneth Maritim finding Michael Karanja just outside the box but the striker’s rushed finish was easily dealt with by Indeche.

John Baraza, standing in for David Ouma who is away in Algiers with the Harambee Starlets withdrew George Odhiambo for Collins Omondi five minutes to the break as Sofapaka sought to stem the tide against them.

Two minutes later, the substitute was booked for a reckless tackle on Aswani who was bearing down on goal from the left as both sides went to the break locked at 1-1.

Baraza made his second change at the restart with the goal scorer coming off for Gerald Bagoole before Minnaert hauled off Maunda for Kateregga.

It was the Ingwe substitute who made the ultimate difference when his cross took out Tiema from the equation for Abuko to score the winner with 20 minutes to go.

There was still time for Tololwa to be denied a third for Leopards when his strike hit Tiema who was already on the ground as they held on for victory.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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