Minnaert bullish as new-look Ingwe purrs to life
On the eve of their Sunday’s return leg match against Thika United in Mumias Sports Complex, AFC Leopards coach Ivan Jacky Minnaert dismissed claims he was under pressure to deliver insisting he was well prepared for the Milkmen.
The Belgian told Citizen Digital his new team was progressively gelling; underscoring it was just a matter of time before Ingwe start purring.
True to his words, Leopards thrashed Thika 4-0 ending an eight-match winless streak, marking their biggest winning margin of the season for the 12-times champions who fielded six new players.
Orchestrating the ruthless revenge against James Nandwa’s side that won the first leg 2-1 at home was Paul Mungai Kiongera, roped in from Tanzania’s Simba SC in June; a striker tipped to turn around the club’s scoring fortunes.
“Kiongera is here, a very good addition to Aswani (Kepha) and Kemboi (Alfred Wekesa). When you are not scoring as you concede you need quality players who bring competition in the squad, that’s where we are headed.
“Diarra is also on the way and we hope we can only get better,” the former Rwanda’s Rayon Sport tactician said.
Minnaert has been on record saying he wanted to send away some players who ‘were of no help to the team,’ and his new acquisitions are already vindicating him.
Bernad Mang’oli, who was also on target, retuning former captain Jackson Saleh, Edwin Wafula, shot stopper Ian Otieno and John Ndirangu all joined in June transfer window and were instrumental in slaying Thika.
“The changes we did in the squad in June speak for themselves. There was that inner drive that was lacking in most of the players we released. We always emphasized to them wearing Leopards’ jersey calls for commitment and a self drive to perform, but most could not live to expectations.
“A player like Kiongera has been categorical he has wanted to play for Ingwe for a long time, you could see it when he featured against Thika, that’s the spirit we were lacking. In fact he had assured us he would score, citing his past record anytime he played against them,” explained optimistic team manager Joseph Milimu.
Besides Kiongera, Milimu noted AFC Leopards had problems in the goalkeeping department which he says has been fixed with the arrival of former Posta Rangers custodian Otieno.
“Competition is another key element that is moving things in the camp; you look at our bench and see value in it. A player like Aswani started from the bench and you could be sure at the time he came on in the second half he would add something.
“Our new goalkeeper is keeping his competitors on their toes, and the likes of Ndirangu amd Yusuf Suf have really adapted well, you can’t even notice the void left by Clifton Miheso,” the official added.
Miheso, a Harambee Stars regular, has since joined South Africa’s top tier side Golden Arrows.
Rayon Sport duo Ismail Diarra, a striker and Emmanuel Imanishiwe are expected to link up with Ingwe on July 16 with the team manager challenging the new-look team to return the club where it belongs.
“We all know we are not where we are supposed to be, but I call for the fighting spirit among our new players and the rest of the team, it is not too late if maintain the tempo,” concluded Milimu.
Paul Nkata’s Tusker FC made a dramatic comeback to sink Ulinzi Stars 2-1 in Afraha, cementing their position at the top of the league as Gor Mahia faltered at hands of Kakamega Homeboyz in a 1-1 draw.
James Situma, the Brewers captain maintained consistency is paramount to their title quest.
“The competition is still very stiff and the league is open, but maintaining good results will matter a lot, at least until the end of July then people can talk about the trophy.
“Other clubs have signed well too as we have done, and no one can doubt our quality at this stage, but we have to keep on winning,” remarked Situma.
Despite the stalemate with Homeboyz, Meddie Kagere’s return as crowned with the opening goal boosting K’Ogalo’s frightening strike force that has clubs’s top scorer Jacques Tuyisenge, Enoch Agwanda, Baron Oketch and Jacob Keli.
Mathare United’s title charge ran out of power when they succumbed to a 1-0 loss to Western Stima, in another upset that denied the Slum Boys a chance to close in on leaders Tusker.
Francis Kimanzi had heaped praise to his team after beating Ulinzi in the second leg opener, underlining a beautiful start signalled determination in the team.
“I congratulate my players, bearing in mind we are just resuming and we win against Ulinzi is a good gesture. I didn’t expect the kind of spirit displayed here and it will be a good precedence to build from,” he said then.
It was never to be, as Stima, now sixth with 25 points grabbed the lead through Kenneth Muguna and smartly defended it to bag maximum points.
Sofapaka’s woes continued with a 2-1 beating by Chemelil Sugar AS Ushuru held Bandari to a one-all draw, leaving Ken Odhiambo’s Mombasa based Dockers winless in the second match of the second round.
Muhoroni Youth would neither get the better of Sony Sugar as the two millers settled for a 2-2 draw.
Wycliffe Ochomo of Muhoroni who saw red in the draw, Ulinzi’s John Mark Makwatta and Aswani top the top scores chart with 11, eight and six goals respectively going to round 18 of the Kenya Premier League.
Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
1Tusker 17 10 5 2 25 16 9 35
2 Gor Mahia 17 9 6 2 21 8 13 30
3 Mathare 17 8 6 3 19 13 6 30
4 Ulinzi Stars 17 7 6 4 19 13 6 27
5 Posta 17 6 8 3 12 8 4 26
6 Western Stima 17 6 7 4 18 15 3 25
7 Muhoroni 17 7 4 6 17 17 0 25
8 Chemelil 17 6 5 6 11 13 -2 23
9 KK Homeboyz 17 6 4 7 14 18 -4 22
10 Ushuru 17 5 6 6 15 19 -4 21
11 AFC Leopards 17 6 5 6 19 17 2 20
12 Bandari 17 4 8 5 16 15 1 20
13 SonySugar 17 5 5 7 12 13 -1 20
14 Thika United 17 3 6 8 13 21 -8 15
15 City Stars 17 2 6 9 9 20 -11 12
16 Sofapaka 17 2 1 14 12 26 -14 7
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