Matano says Gor ‘just another match’ for Leopards
AFC Leopards Head Coach Robert Matano downplayed the significance of Sunday’s clash with Gor Mahia FC as his charges warmed for the derby showdown by defeating Tusker FC on Thursday.
Leopards’ triumph at the Nyayo National Stadium ended their winless streak stretching three years back against the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions and will return to the same venue seeking derby edge.
Matano will hope Thursday’s match-winner Samuel Ndungu who has now scored thrice in his last three outings, and indeed his entire squad, can keep the momentum rolling against their eternal rivals.
“We are in the process of redeeming Leopards’ image and we’re gradually getting it right. The win is a boost going to the weekend fixture but we are taking it like just another match in the league. We will be playing to win,” Matano said.
Ndung’u had only been on the pitch for five minutes after coming on for Marcellus Ingotsi when the former Muhoroni Youth sruck in the 83rd minute to condemn Tusker to their second loss in five days.
The champions had to contend with playing a man down after Marlon Tangauzi was given the marching orders for a second bookable offence five minutes into the second half.
-Up in smoke-
Despite falling 14 points adrift leaders Gor, Tusker boss George ‘Best’ Nsimbe maintained their title defence bid remains realistic but admitted the two successive defeats have certainly slowed their momentum.
The Brewers were handed shock defeat last week on Sunday in their GOtv Shield quarter-finals match with second-tier leaders Vihiga United. The 2-0 loss meant their dream of repeating last season’s league and Cup double went up in smoke.
“We have a long way to go before the end of the season so we are firmly in the race. There is always a bad feeling and some discouragement when you lose consecutively but we strive to leave the past and focus on the coming matches,” the Ugandan tactician said.
The teams were evenly balanced, with Burundian striker Alexis Kitenge twice coming close for the Leopards inside the opening 10 minutes. He was denied on both occasions by Tusker keeper Duncan Ochieng’.
Boniface Muchiri was in inspired form down the Brewers’ left wing but his sumptuous crosses were cut out by the Leopards defense marshaled by Robinso Kamura.
The mood had been dull at the stadium until Ndung’u came late on to give the home fans something to cheer about, capitalizing on sluggish reaction from Tusker’s backline to fire home the winner.
Tuskers, who drop eight on the 18-team KPL log, will play Kakamega Homeboyz in their next match.
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