Leopards on song early as Gor relinquish KPL top spot
The third round of the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) left AFC Leopards and Ulinzi Stars the only clubs boasting a 100 percent start to the new campaign as record titleholders Gor Mahia FC saw their winning streak broken at Western Stima.
Tusker FC picked up the first pieces of what was threatening to be a nightmare title defense bid with a 1-0 win at home to Chemelil Sugar, leaving Kariobangi Sharks and Zoo Kericho FC the only sides yet register a single point in 2017.
The newcomers have especially found life at the top flight difficult to cope with and while Nzoia Sugar suffered their first defeat on Saturday, the side that came into the KPL as National Super League (NSL) champions have set themselves a class apart.
In a thrilling round, an average of two goals per game were scored as Bandari FC moved atop the KPL standings with a 3-0 thumping of Muhoroni Youth while Zoo slid to the bottom after being inflicted to a 2-0 loss at home to Nakumatt FC.
AFC Leopards have the chance to unseat Bandari from the summit when they host Ulinzi on Wednesday for their game in hand but face an ambitious side buoyed by a 1-0 win over Sharks in their opening fixture.
Despite their latest win, Leopards Head Coach Stewart Hall counted the losses from the bruising Western derby clash that left two of his new signings – Robinson Kamura and Gilbert Fiamenyo – sustaining injuries.
“I’m a bit worried because we have a game on Wednesday. At halftime we thought we needed more quality and we were fortunate we had (Allan) Kateregga to bring on.
“When Rob got injured we had Rama (Yakubu Ramadhan) who played a lot of football last season in the KPL and at the end brought in a young striker (Marcelus Ingosti for injured Fiamenyo).
“I hope they recover soon but for today, I couldn’t ask for more from my players,” Hall who is a former Azam FC tactician said post-match.
His opposite number Bernard Mwalala who watched as his side blow their 1-0 first half lead to concede twice in the second refused to lay blame on the players, maintaining they showed ‘great character’ in the loss.
“I was sure we could get something and avoid dropping points but in football result can go either way, especially with the chances of the first half which would have killed the game.
“My players gave their best and I believe the result leaves them with no option but to win the next fixture, it’s still early in the season and we are still learning,” the former Harambee Stars striker said.
He however slammed the home fans for what he termed as an uncivilized intimidation of his players and their travelling fans throughout the match.
Perhaps one of the most shocking starts to the new season is that of the Sharks who arrived to the KPL bearing great momentum and showed equally great promise in their pre-season. The sleek side are only one of two clubs that managed to win against Nzoia in the NSL last season.
They convincingly defeated Leopards in their pre-season friendly and drew 0-0 with the KPL All Stars side that had assembled to represent the country against the Hull City select XI earlier this year.
It is still early and their season is far from sour and Head Coach William Muluya is staying calm.
“I noted massive improvement in the team and the only thing we need to do is make sure we come up and win also because the league is stretching to round four.
“By now we should be able to give a good account of ourselves which I believe will be seen in our next match,” the former Mathare United Team Manager stated.
Henry Omino’s Stima avenged the loss of arguably their finest player last season with a 2-1 win over Gor as Kenneth Muguna endured a losing back to the club with which he won the 2016 KPL Player of the year.
In Mombasa, Paul Nkata’s groove that propelled Tusker to a domestic double last 2016 continued to manifest with his new side Bandari as they whipped Muhoroni at the Mbaraki Stadium.
The loss compounded Muhoroni’s woes after KPL disciplinary committee docked them three points following an abandoned match against Kakamega Homeboyz a week ago, leaving them 16th on the log.
Francis Kimanzi’s Mathare suffered a 2-1 loss to Sofapaka, the latter inspired by the newly announced 50 million sponsorship deal with a betting firm two days to the duel.
The Batoto ba Mungu are now fourth, while the Slum Boys are perched six places adrift on 10xth.
Posta Rangers versus Kakamega Homeboyz ended 1-1 for the round’s only stalemate.
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