Leopards seek KPL solace after derby heartache

AFC Leopards SC coach instructs his charges during their Sportpesa Premier League match against Ulinzi ...
(FILE)AFC Leopards SC coach instructs his charges during their Sportpesa Premier League match against Ulinzi Stars FC at the Kenyatta stadium in Machakos on April 05, 2017. The match ended 0-0. Photo/Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com

Domestic giants AFC Leopards travel to Sony Sugar on Wednesday after a dispiriting derby defeat to Gor Mahia FC and will be seeking a quick pick-me-up to get their frailing Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title bid back on track.

With Kariobangi Sharks moving third following their 2-1 win over Mathare United on Tuesday, it meant the Leopards slid one place down the log into ninth after a similar number of KPL rounds of matches.

Gameweek nine saw Posta Rangers cling to the summit with a victory over Sofapaka FC, while holders Tusker FC who had a slow start leapt to top five for the first time this season with a win over Kakamega Homeboyz.

Zoo Kericho, who had struggled at the bottom for the last eight weeks finally jumped out of the relegation zone with a win over hosts Western Stima who moved to rock bottom.

A total of 19 goals were scored, Ulinzi Stars clash against Thika United producing the most (5), the Soldiers sinking hosts 3-2.

-Leopards outplayed-

As the center referee blew the last whistle at the Nairobi’s Nyayo Stadium, it was hard for the few Leopards fans who withstood the humiliation to its bitter end to believe it was over without a consolation goal.

A host of fans had walked out of the stadium as soon as Timothy Otieno netted the third.

Some of them who spoke to Citizen Digital claimed black magic cost them, others accusing coach Stewart Hall for fielding ‘Gor players’ to play for Ingwe.

“This was not a derby. Our players panicked from the start as if they were playing Barcelona FC.

“We didn’t see any object thrown, there was no teargas either. This are things that make a derby real. I’m disappointed with them,” a disgruntled Leopards fan lamented.

Another one, who identified himself as Opiyo, claimed Hall should have left the Luhya people to fight for their pride.

“These foreign coaches need to know the proper history of these clubs. Once you are born a Luhya you become a Leopards follower by default and vise versa.

“The goalkeeper was Ian Otieno, Duncan Otieno was at the defense. No wonder we conceded very easy goals, they didn’t play from the heart,” he complained.

While Gor faithful were celebrating the huge win, a renown fan who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed it would have been disastrous for coach Jose Marcelo ‘Zero Maria’ Ferreira had Ingwe carried the day.

“We are happy although Ze Maria should be happier for the win. We would have chased him today because we have not been playing well.

“We want the team back to the heights of 2015 season, and he has had his enough time to prove himself. He won a big deal today,” he told.

Hall on his part cited lack of experience among his players as the major reason for defeat, most of the members being new.

“There is something with derbies, some unnecessary pressure among players. We insisted to them it’s a game like any other but they still didn’t settle well.

“Gor had the advantage of experienced players who have played in this level for long,” the Briton tactician offered.
His opposite, Ferreira, lauded his charges for observing the plan saying the win was a big step in their quest for the league title.

“It is not just a win, it means a lot to a side that you are always telling to focus on the trophy and nothing less.

“We have a long way to go but if we can implement our plan on a derby day then it is possible in other matches. Congratulations to them, they deserved the win,” the former Italy’s Inter Milan defender charged.

Gor are two points shy of unbeaten leaders Posta who have amassed 21,while Ingwe are tied at 14 with Bandari FC and Chemelil Sugar.

-Close contest-

Only two points separate teams between position three and nine, an indication of how close the battle for the top honors is.

Ulinzi Stars, Sofapaka and Tusker have 15 each with goal difference placing them in that order.

Round nine full results:

Mathare United 0-1 Bandari
Nakumatt 1-1 Nzoia Sugar
Kariobangi Sharks 2-0 Sony Sugar

Chemelil Sugar 1-1Muhoroni Youth Fc
Posta Rangers 1-0 Sofapaka
Tusker 1-0 Kakamega Homeboyz

AFC Leopards 0-3 Gor Mahia
Thika United 2-3 Ulinzi Stars
Western Stima 0-2 Zoo Kericho

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Story By Jacob Icia
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