Monday, April 30, 2012

Post Match: Karuturi (A)

You better start paying attention to Collins Okinyo's predictions. He predicted a 1-1 draw, and the score at the end of the game was 1-1.

Here is how the wires captured and reported the action:-

Timothy Olobulu of MichezoAfrika wrote:-

Erick Masika scored in the 49th minute as AFC leopards came from a goal down to hold home team Karuturi Sports at their “Old Trafford” backyard in Naivasha.AFC Leopards had succumbed to a 13th minute goal from Benjamin Oketch.

The flower men had began the match on a high taking advantage of AFC Leopards’s long time to get into the match. In the 13th minute, John Mwangi was fouled from 40 yards out. Benjamin Oketch was handed the opportunity and  he sent a ferocious shot that evaded keeper Patrick Matasi for the first goal of the match.

Kennedy Oduor and John Mwangi were constant treats to the Leopards backline but the finishing was not quite on point.

Just as the first half was coming to an end, Leopards almost slipped into a second goal. Erick Masika slipped and missed a clearance from a long ball in. Allan Otindo picked up the ball and raced towards goal but the best he could do was shoot straight at keeper Patrick Matasi.

Come the second half coupled with some light showers,AFC Leopards came back marauding seeking for the equalizer to settle their nerves.  An attack masterminded by Salim Kinje from the right brought some nervous moments into the Karuturi back yard.

Jimmy Bagaye was fouled in the process. Kinje took the resultant freekick. Masika who was lurking in the 6-yard box dived in but his header came off a Karuturi defender.i

Kinje and Bernard Mang’oli started short the resultant corner with Knje swinging in the cross. Masika once again popped his head in and notched in his first goal of season for the Leopards.

The game was stopped in the 59th minute after Karuturi Coach Michael Nam was given the matching orders for protesting a decision. Nam refused to walk out of the pitch but concerted efforts from the team officials and the players cooled him down and he agreed to leave.

The game continued but none of the teams could get a second goal. Both resorted to cautious play with the rains pounding and making the pitch slippery.

Despite the draw,AFC still leads in the KPL log with 27 points,5 better than second placed Tusker FC who have a game at hand.

Mwangi Gichau of Kenyanstar wrote:-

Kenyan Premier League leaders AFC Leopards went five points clear after a 1-1 draw with Karuturi Sports at Old Trafford Stadium in Naivasha. Benjamin Oketch and Eric Masika scored in either half of the match played under rainy conditions.

The match was not without some drama as Karuturi coach Michael Nam was sent off in the second half for protesting against the referee's decision not to award a penalty for what looked like a Jonas Nahimana handball.

Coach Jan Koops made two changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Tusker last weekend, with Salim Kinje returning from injury and Laurent Tumba getting his first start of the season. Top scorers Allan Wanga and Mike Baraza were ruled out with injuries.

Karuturi enjoyed large chucks of possession in the first half with the Leopards' defence being broken through almost at will by Allan Otindo, John Mwangi and industrious midfielder Kennedy Oduor.

Benjamin Oketh put Karuturi ahead in the 17th minute with a stunning free kick from 30 yards to give the flowermen the deserved lead, after a foul on John Mwangi. The match was punctuated with knocks on several players, the biggest casulty being Ingwe's
Jimmy Bagaye.

Ingwe's first shot at goal came from Tumba's left footed strike straight at Karuturi keeper Michael Wanyika in the 39th minute. Kinje blazed a freekick over the bar two minutes later.

Karuturi broke on the counter attack moments later. Oduor fed Otindo who beat Eric Masika but could only see his shot fly into the hands of Patrick Matasi.

Leopards were the better side in the second half. Amon Muchiri came on for the shaky Robert Syongoh while injured Bagaye was replaced by Francis Chinjili.

Salim Kinje played a short corner kick with Bernard Mang'oli in the 50th minute. Mang'oli returned the ball to Kinje who floated a cross into the area for Masika to head into the net for the equaliser, his first for Leopards since signing from Gor Mahia.

Play was stopped for close to ten minutes as Nam refused to leave the pitch after being sent off. Nam had to be escorted out by police officers.

Oduor saw his free kick go just inches off target in the 65th minute. Chinjili could have netted the winnner for Ingwe but his hurried shot went wide with only Wanyika to beat in the 73rd minute.

Leopards held the flowermen to open the gap on top of the league to 5 points clear of second placed Tusker who face Sofapaka on Monday. Karuturi are 8th with 17 points.

Dennis Masinde Wandabwa of Futaa wrote:-

AFC Leopards extended their lead atop the Kenyan Premier League after coming from behind to hold Karuturi Sports to a 1-1 draw in a match played at the Karuturi Stadium in Naivasha, Sunday 29 April 2012.

Benjamin Oketch put Karuturi in the lead, with defender Eric Masika heading home his first for the club at the beggining of the second half. 

Karuturi scored after 16 minutes, Oketch crushing home a superb 40 yard freekick to silence the large travelling Leopards support at the Karuturi Stadium.

The flowermen would go on full throttle afterwards, in search of a second goal, but strikers Allan Otindo and John Mwangi failed to register anything of importance on Patrick Matasi's goal.

Leopards went into the half time break having had no shots on target and would have to up the ante in the second period to get something from the game.

Coach Jan Koops' words must have been magic, as they made the perfect start to the second half, Masika heading home a Victor Ochieng cross on 49 minutes, after a training ground set-piece routine also involving midfielder Salim Khamis.

A few minutes later, there was drama as Karuturi coach Micheal Nam was sent to the stands, this after walking onto the pitch in protest over a penalty claim. 

However after the goal and drama, things slowed down as the effects of a packed midfield and heavy rain that pounded the area started wearing in on the game.

Leopards made two changes with 25 minutes to go, Francis Chinjili and Amon Muchiri coming in for Jimmy Bageya and Robert Syongo.

Karuturi on the other hand brought in Jacob and Allan Omondi in search of forward impetus, but to no avail.

Leopards thus extend their lead to five points (27), over second placed Tusker FC, though the brewers have a game in hand. Karuturi on the other hand remain eighth with 17 points.
The Daily Nation carried this story:-
Eric Masika saved AFC Leopards from the jaws of defeat on Sunday, netting an equaliser against Karuturi Sports as the two sides shared the spoils on Sunday in Naivasha.

Masika headed home in the 49th minute as the league leaders, who struggled in the game, went home with a point.
Leopards Dutch coach, Jan Koops, was happy with a point after the 1-1 draw but once again was disappointed with his team’s general performance.
“At least we managed a point but I know we have so much work to do, especially in the defence and midfield,’’ he said.
Leopards found themselves chasing the game after the quarter hour mark when Benjamin Oketch put the flowermen ahead.
The goal was a wake-up call for Ingwe, who failed to win the midfield battle in the game.
Martin Imbalabala, the defensive cover in the Leopards’ midfield, struggled to cope with the speed of the game and the strikers were not getting the ball upfront.

But when the league leaders got a corner four minutes after the break, Masika rose high above the rest to head home and push Ingwe further at the top.
Leopards, who lost 2-0 to champions Tusker last weekend, now have 27 points from 12 outings in the league.

The Standard has this story:-

AFC Leopards failed to win for the second time in a row but will be glad with the point after being held to a 1-1 draw by Karuturi Sports in Naivasha.

After losing 2-0 last weekend to Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions Tusker, Leopards were expecting to bounce back to winning ways and extending their lead at the top of the standings.

But with a huge contingent of fans behind them, Leopards fell to an early 16th minute goal from Benjamin Oketch, which threatened to spoil the party for the league leaders. Oketch scored with a brilliant free-kick that beat Patrick Matasi all the way in goal.

Eric Masika dropped from the national team Harambee Stars when the side was named last Friday, equalised for Leopards in the 49th minute heading home a Victor Ochieng’ free-kick.

After the goal, Karuturi coach Michael Nam was sent off to the stands for protesting a decision not to award his side what he deemed to have been a legitimate penalty.

In the 75th minute, Leopards coach Jaan Koops brought in Francis Chinjili and Amon Muchiri as his side pushed forward for the elusive winner but this did not yield any results.

Fred Maingi of Supersport wrote:

Erick Masika salvaged a point for AFC Leopards in Naivasha heading home an equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Karuturi Sports on Sunday.

The former Gor Mahia stopper nodded the ball in on 63 minutes to ensure Leopards would not suffer a second consecutive loss in a Kenyan Premier League tie played under heavy downpour.

Karuturi had taken the lead after 19 minutes through Benjamin Oketch who slammed home Mustapha Ogutu's free kick past Leopards’ custodian Patrick Matasi.

Leopards however came in the second half with their guns blazing forcing Karuturi goalkeeper Mike Wanyika to make several saves but he was unable to keep out Masika’s effort off a Salim Kinje freekick.

Francis Chinjili could have won it for the visitors on 70 minutes when through on goal but he blasted the ball over the bar.

Karuturi coach Mike Nam was sent off in the dying minutes by referee David Gikonyo for questioning one of his calls. But the tactician met hostile treatment from Leopards fans who blocked him from leaving the pitch and he needed police escort to leave the field.

Both teams made several substitutions with Karuturi rested John Mwangi, Mustapha Ogutu and Allan Otindo who were replaced by Jacob Omondi, Allan Omondi and Gerald Mukonza while Leopards brought in Chinjili for Jimmy Bagaye.

The KPL website said:-

Benjamin Oketch had home side Karuturi Sports up in the 16th minute, his well taken free-kick 35 metres out beating AFC Leopards’ ‘keeper Patrick Matasi.
Leopards had drawn their matches at Karuturi since 2009 and it was all they could hope for this time.

Defender Eric Masika saved the visitors’ blushes, the ex-Gor Mahia man scoring his first goal for Leopards with a second half header. Masika connected with a Victor Ochieng’ cross on 49 minutes.

Karuturi coach Michael Nam will be awaiting league disciplinary action after making a nuisance of himself -- going to sit on the pitch and holding up play --protesting that the referee had ignored a Karuturi penalty claim.

When Nam was ejected by the referee and play resumed, Leopards laid siege but they could not grab the winner.

League Table 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pre Match: Karuturi (A)

Collins Okinyo of Supersport predicts a 1-1 draw.

Karuturi v AFC Leopards(Karuturi)

Karuturi are enjoying a good run of form having won their game last weekend that pushed them up to sixth on the log with 16 points. 

They face a wounded AFC Leopards who lost their unbeaten record last weekend. Ingwe are still on top of the league with 26 points and will stay top if they win in Naivasha. 

Jacob Omondi and Allan Otindo will be the players to watch for Karuturi while Leopards have a wide range of players to choose from with Jimmy Bageya, Victor Ochieng, Allan Wanga and Mike Baraza all in contention. 

Prediction: 1-1

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Post Match: Tusker (H)

The unbeaten have been beaten! Leopards lost 0-2 to Tusker at Mbaraki in Mombasa when they scored two own goals.

The Sunday Nation reports:-

AFC Leopards remarkable 23-match unbeaten run shuddered to halt at their unfamiliar “home” ground of Mombasa in the hands of champions Tusker as Ulinzi Stars edged out Gor Mahia in Nakuru. 

League leaders AFC Leopards suffered their first Kenya Premier League (KPL) defeat when Tusker deservedly beat them 2-0 at Mbaraki Sports Club in Mombasa.
Leopards’ supporters, who expected their team to register their first league win against Tusker since 1998, left disappointed after their team was outplayed.
However, Leopards made a good start and could have taken the lead in the fourth minute when Allan Wanga sent a powerful drive that hit the side netting with supporters jumping for jubilation thinking it was a goal.
Four minutes later, it was Tusker’s turn to miss the target as Joseph Shikokoti free kick went wide.
In the 16th minute, Kenneth Wendo and Paul Were combined well but Joseph Emeka who had only the goalkeeper at his mercy sent a slow shot and a grateful Patrick Matasi collected.
In the second half, Tusker continued to dominate and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 50th minute. 

A corner by Peter Opiyo found Brian Mandela who sent a header that defender Jonas Nahimana deflected into his own net.
Tusker ensure victory in the 83rd minute. A thrown in by substitute Luke Ochieng saw Leopards’ Matasia sending the ball into his own net in futile attempt to keep the ball out.

The Sunday Standard reports:-

Reigning champions Tusker FC shattered AFC Leopards’ unbeaten run after they handed them a 2-0 drubbing in a Kenyan Premier League match at the Mbaraki Sports Club, Mombasa.

Despite the defeat, Leopards are perched on top with 26 points, but Sofapaka are in good position to trim the gap to three points should they win Sunday’s match against Thika United in Thika.

Leopards failed in all departments with their midfield completely tame, thus allowing Tusker to comfortably take charge.

The Ingwe side should thank their goalkeeper Patrick Matasi, who worked overtime to contain the marauding Tusker striking force marshaled by Paul Were and Joseph Emeka.

AFC Leopards fans mistook Allan Wanga’s sixth side-netting shot, but centre referee Richard Obare stood firm and play resumed.

After scoreless draw, Tusker were awarded a corner kick, which was taken by Peter Opiyo before it was well connected by Brian Mandela. Jonas Nahimana of AFC Leopards deflected it in an attempt to clear it in the 57th minute for the first goal.

Tusker benched Paul Were, Kenneth Wendo and Joseph Emeka for Luke Ochieng’, Fredrick Onyango, and Andrew Murunga while AFC Leopards rested Jimmy Bageya, Bernard Mangoli, and Allan Wanga for Laurent Tumba, Brian Masiolo and Oscar Kadenge.

Tusker put the icing on the cake with the second goal, courtesy of Ochieng’ Luke, whose throw-in was pushed into the net by keeper Matasi.

Last season, Tusker hit AFC Leopards 2-0 and 2-1 in both legs.

A seemingly gleeful KPL website reported:-

IT was a big mistake by AFC Leopards. They took Tusker all the way to play in Mombasa but it was Leopards who looked completely out of place, or at sea, to be humbled with a 2-0 defeat by the Brewers who looked at home at the Kenya Ports Authority [KPA] Sports Club, Mbaraki.

It was to be Leopards’ first defeat of the season, their position at the top of the Kenyan Premier League table being cut to four points by second-placed Tusker, the defending champions.

After big defender Brian Mandela, good as usual in the box, scrambled in a loose ball between legs from a 58th minute Tusker corner, the wind appeared to have been knocked out of AFC Leopards.

They had looked gullible. Under normal Coastal weather that usually causes untested upcountry visitors some problems, the toll was evident in the gait of Leopards’ players, a collection of mainly upcountry men who have never stayed even for a few hours in places lower than 5,000 ft above Mombasa’s sea level.

Indeed the face of Leopards Kenya defender Eric Masika, drenched in sweat throughout and clearly bothered by the sun glare, was the gloomy picture of discomfort among Leopards.

By the time Jimmy Bagaye, the normally speedy winger, tired as a dog, was being replaced with Brian Masiolo in the 70th minute, the Kampala [Uganda] man was wondering what a distressing place Mombasa was.

Yet Leopards, had chosen to take this their home fixture to Mombasa, ostensibly to reap the maximum gain. The complete opposite happened. It appeared that Tusker, the ever present team in Kenya’s top-flight football have picked up knowledge about Mombasa and adaptability, all the years they have travelled there to play Coast opposition.

After Mandela’s goal, many heads down, panic and defeat written all over, Leopards were a sorry sight.

Masiolo, Laurent Tumba [for Allan Wanga] and Oscar Kadenge [for Bernard Mang’oli] were thrown in but they could do nothing about a midfield lost cause where Peter Opiyo and Jerry Santos had imprinted Tusker’s complete dominance.

Substitutes Frederick Onyango and Luke Ochieng’ just added to Tusker’s strength and it was to be Leopards’ first nightmare since the season began, an unbeaten streak going back to July last year.

In the opening minutes, some opportunities for Leopards were to materialise before the game started running away from them. Bageya ran up at the Tusker defense and earned a free kick off the Brewers’ skipper Joseph Shikokoti. Wanga’s hard shot just missed by inches.

Tusker goalie Boniface Oluoch saved twice from Bageya before Wanga set up Victor Ochieng’ who was judged marginally offside. Then Tusker began the charge, the running of the Kenyan winger Paul Were proving unsettling to the Leopards’ backline. Were’s first major threat was squaring to Nigerian Joseph Emeka who was in a good position in the box but could not capitalise.

Emeka and top-of-the-attack man Kenneth Wendo were then to test Leopards ‘keeper Patrick Matasi. But most dangerous was midfield man Opiyo who just lost his footing on the half hour while about to pounce on a clear Tusker chance.

Tusker coach Sammy Omollo showed how adept he is in reading the game when he brought more strength from the bench immediately he noticed someone [Frederick Onyango] could do better than Emeka; the change coming with 10 minutes left in the first period.

From then on nothing could rattle the Brewers. After taking the lead, Tusker could have stretched it with an Opiyo free kick; curved well but flying just over Matasi. Then Wendo missed with a header.

Even though Tumba and Masiolo brought in some fight for Leopards that a withered Bagaye and an apparent struggling-with-injury Wanga could not, Tusker were just too comfortable. Leopards’ fate was completely sealed when Luke Ochieng’s long throw in the 83rd minute bamboozled a crowded box and Matasi could not hold the ball as it flew into the net.

Rodgers Eshitemi of Futaa wrote:-

History repeated itsaelf as Tusker ended AFC Leopards 23-matches unbeaten run in the Kenyan Premier League, beating them 0-2, on Saturday 21 April at Mbaraki Stadium.

Sammy Omollo’s boys capitalized on the Leopards’ defensive lapses to halt their cinderella run. After a barren first half, Brian Mandela tapped home an easy goal from a corner kick in the 58th minute to put the defending champions in the driving seat.

Tusker dominated the match, outplaying AFC in the midfield with skipper Joseph Shikokoti and company keeping their lethal forward at bay. Second half substitute Luke Ochieng' doubled the score from a throw-in, beating Patrick Matasi very easily in the 82nd minute.

This becomes a third win in a row for the Brewers against Ingwe after beating them in both legs last season and also in the second leg of the 2010 season. However, Leopards are still at the peak of the table standings with 26 points, four ahead of second placed Tusker.

John Munene of MichezoAfrika wrote:-

AFC’s unbeaten run in the Kenyan Premier League came to a halt on Saturday after they fell 2-0 to champion’s Tusker at Mbaraki Stadium in Mombasa. A deflected shot by Brian Mandela and a throw by substitute Luke Ochieng provided the goals that silenced the huge travelling AFC crowd.

The hosts had the first chance of the game when a foul by Tusker defender Joseph Shikokoti on Jimmy Bageya earned them a free kick in a promising position. Allan Wanga executed it well but the ferocious shot missed by an inch to hit the side of the net.

Tusker then got a chance after winning a free kick in the 8th minute but Shikokoti’s powerful shot went well off target.
AFC leopards then had two chances .Jimmy Bageya weaved past two tusker defenders then had a good shot that was saved by keeper Boniface Oluoch. A minute later, Allan Wanga set up Victor Ochieng who was ruled offside but still had his shot placed wide.

Tusker then createD the best chance of the game when Paul Were’s cross landed at Joseph Emeka’s legs but the Nigerian sent a feeble shot that was easily collected by keeper Matasi.

The next strike by Tusker had keeper Matasi off his line but Joseph Emeka and Ken Wendo misfired past the open net. As the game approached the half hour mark Man of the match Peter Opiyo was presented with an opportunity but he lost his footing when executing the shot.

Ten minutes after the interval, Tusker coach Pamzo Omollo introduced Fred Onyango for the misfiring Joseph Emeka.

The brewers had a good grip of the match and launched attack after attack. One such offensive in the 58th minute ended in a corner. Brian Mandela capitalized on a goal mouth melee to slot in the corner after Jonas Nahimana deflected the ball and gave keeper Matasi no chance to save.

AFC defender then fouled Paul Were to gift the visitors a free kick that Peter Opiyo curved well though it soared past Matasi. Tusker would have made it two had Ken Wendo been alert to capitalize on a failed header clearance by Eric Masika.

With Tusker dominating the midfield battle, Coach Koops brought in Brian Masiolo for Jimmy Bageya while Allan Wanga paved way for Laurent Tumba.

The change brought some stability into the Ingwe midfield and allowed Mike Baraza launch two unsuccessful attacks.

Ten minutes to the end Koops threw in his final dice with Oscar Kadenge coming in for Bernard Mang’oli. Pamzo responded by replacing the industrious Paul Were with Luke Ochieng.

Luke Ochieng’s first role was a throw that went past Matasi to double Tusker’s advantage in the 83rd minute.

The goal seemed to dampen AFC’s effort to search for an equalizer as Tusker had the best moves in the final minutes of the game.

Despite the loss, AFC Leopards still leads the table standings with 26points while Tusker has moved second with 22points.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pre Match: Tusker (H)


Pundits reckon this is sure going to be a humdinger. The defending champions take on the league leaders at a venue that is seemingly neutral to both sides. The league leaders are gathering premier league points like a magnet on filings and they have taken a mind blowing 26 out of a possible 30. The Leopards have won all the matches played away from having taken maximum points in Nakuru, Thika and twice in Mumias.

The TV cameras have also been following them and of the ten matches played so far, seven have been live with this weekend seeing the possibility of Bernard Otieno screaming, “BARRRAAAAAZAAAA!!!” as the eighth out of eleven matches are shown. The Chairman of the Sofa Set Branch must be wishing he could send a bottle of wine or a quiche or something to Gary Rathbone.

Tusker FC of course, is a difficult customer and of all the teams in the league, none has a better record against Leopards than the Brewers. In fact, Leopards haven’t beaten them in twelve consecutive league matches.

When Tusker FC was conceived, it left a bad taste in the mouth of Leopards fans of old, as they poached players from Leopards. There was a feeling that they got favoured by the corporate connection they had with Kenneth Matiba, then CEO of the Brewers getting involved in football matters. Leopards would in fact be having a 13th title if Tusker hadn’t insisted that Leopards play the most important fixture of 1972 even with their dependable players away. 

The league which was played with a semi final and final format saw Leopards lose 1-0 to Tusker on 29th November 1972 in circumstances that triggered the displeasure of the Leopards so much that two years later, they boycotted the entire League!

But that was then. The here and now sees Tusker walking into this fixture in a town renowned for its tusks on the back of a disappointing 2-2 draw with this season’s strugglers Mat U. Leopards on the other hand are scoring for fun having an average of 2.00 goals per game and their own ‘Pichichi’ competition featuring Victor Ochieng, Allan Wanga and Mike Baraza at the top with four goals each whilst Jonas Nahimana and Jimmy Bageya breath down on them with three. Bageya also tops the assists charts.

If Leopards beat Tusker, they would have not only conquered all from every clime and coast, but they will head to Naivasha the following weekend knowing that the chant “Sisi AFC, nifwe Ingwe, tunafagia timu zote tunapata!” finally has a true ring to it.

The only people who could stop them this weekend are the likes of Joseph Shikokoti who has been rock solid and … tall but Victor Ochieng showed last weekend that height is nothing but some digits and a comma. Paul Were is always a moment away from winning a penalty with his pace but Patrick Matasi has saved a couple this season with his vision.

Leopards have a great chance to repeat what their predecessors did last in 1998 and in football as in life, nothing stays forever. After all, as they say in the casinos at the coast  - you never know! Catch the action from the stands at Mbaraki or from the comfort of your couch or from bugging those in either places. It is the biggest clash of the weekend and you just don’t wanna miss it!

The Images

Admit it. Go on. Just admit it. You have enjoyed this season so far. Even if you are not Abraham, you have sounded cocky, asking people, “How many goals did we win by?” instead of asking, “What was the score?”

Your memory bank is teeming with images that will never be erased.

The image of Patrick Matasi, cool as a bomb disposal expert, using his hands and feet to stop not one, but two penalties in the same match. He could have saved a third with his head, but it was just not awarded to Ulinzi.

The image of your despairing fellow fan as we conceded a corner; quickly turned into ecstasy and planting of kisses on strangers of the opposite sex as Mike Baraza scores a delicious goal past the keeper, not once, but against Oserian and Thika Utd. 

“Another Flawless Counter!” you could easily have shouted but instead you chose to scream the abbreviation.

The image of Jonas Nahimana; the guy is admittedly a looker; but he slots in not one, but two penalties, without even looking up. He stores the image of the goal in his head and just plants the ball as he did against Ulinzi and then against Stima.

The image of Allan Wanga, smashing the ball, not once or even twice, but thrice, with a shot that Kenya Power have been studying keenly in the face of frequent black-outs, to find out if that shot can be an alternative source of power. 

And don’t get me started on the dance that he has bequeathed our doting eyes!

The image of Jimmy Bageya, dancing when we have scored and even before we score. He picks the ball, flicks his leg over the ball, his leg caresses the ball, and the ball just closes its eyes telling him, “Would you do that again?” And he does another step-over and sends another ball into the D. The next thing you know, the ball has been put to bed in the net.

That is why he is the King of Assists for this season.

The image of Victor Ochieng, diminutive but the reason why they say dynamite comes in small packages. He scored an impossible goal against Muhoroni that had many fans booking appointments with ophthalmologists and opticians the following day! How did he do that? He did what was mathematically impossible; with some people thinking he had hit the side netting whilst others were left asking: What? How? Where? Which? Who?

The image of Bernard Mangoli one of the few guys we know on the Planet who can thread the ball through the eye of a needle as he sends the ball into a position that makes you woinder whether he has one set of eyes or a dozen. He bosses the midfield like a colossus and the way he takes corners, he could make one great Formula 1 driver. And to drive the point home, he is the only player to score for Leopards each season for the last three seasons.

The image of the indefatigable Charles Okwemba doing what most players don’t do in addition to delivering balls with bouquet of flowers, to the box. Against Oserian, he was tackled not once but twice before he went down after the opposing player finally scythed him. But that extra metre he gained as he was on his feet refusing to go down easily, was key as from a pinpoint free kick delivered by Kinje, Allan Wanga opened his goal account with the Leopards.

The image of Salim Kinje, like above, leaving destruction like a tsunami with the way he whips in his free kicks. His determination showed against Thika Utd as we stored the image of him withstanding an injury and pain. They way he soldiered on bravely paid off and he even took part in the salute as we scored our second.

The image of Robert Syongo, not hogging the limelight or the headlines, when in truth, we should be cutting down the whole of Mau Forest to print newspapers with his name in the headline as an unsung hero who is a joy to watch as he imitates Leopards of old who were wing backs. His pass to Ochieng that led to the Baraza goal against KCB was worth each bob you could paid.

The image of Edwin Wafula with his telegraphic mind. He reads the opponents move towards our goal so well you would think he crammed it in a nursery rhyme and then he counters those moves with such precise clearances you wonder why they didn’t take him in a Clearance and Forwarding Firm.

The image of Martin Imbalambala, wearing the “C” on his arm band and then approaching a ball that needs to be thrown back in. He throws the ball so far, you could excuse him if he misses some fixtures in the summer as he could represent the country in the shot put at the London Olympics. Calm, composed, calculated… you can roll out a lot of words that symbolize the ‘C’ he wears on his armband and you will still find he is the engine of our success as the captain.

There are of course other images that have been etched in our collective psyche and which for lack of space I haven’t been able to mention. I appreciate all Leopards players even those not featured here and who are without a doubt part of this winning team. But the season is one third gone, and we have another two thirds to see for ourselves more and probably better images. Because we are Leopards, and our vision is reportedly six times better than those of humans.

So now you admit it, right?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Post Match: Thika Utd (A)

AFC Leopards SC cemented their lead at the top of the Premier league table at the one-third stage by beating Thika United 2-1 in Thika.

So how did the press cover the major migration? Here is a full round up.

The Feverpitch team at the Standard wrote:- 

AFC Leopards continued with their march towards the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title after stopping Thika United 2-1 away, on Saturday. 

The win also stretched Leopards’ unbeaten run to a new record of 23 matches. Victor Ochieng’ put Leopards ahead in the 20th minute when he rose above Thika defenders to nod home Bernard Mangoli’s header.

But a defensive lapse allowed Moses Arita to level for Thika United eight minutes later. Veteran striker Mike Barasa made it two for Leopards in spectaclar style in the 32nd minute, scoring from a counter-attack started by Jimmy Bagaye. 

The goal came as Thika were making efforts to go ahead and had won a corner, which, unfortunately, fell on Bagaye and he made a 60m run to feed Baraza, who simply tapped home. Thika were unlucky not to get at least a goal in a second half, which they dominated. 

Francis Kahata’s low ground shot in the 48th minute was too close for Patrick Matasi in goal. But the miss of the half will surely go to Kepha Aswani. 

He found himself unmarked inside the Leopards defence but shot wide even as his markers were expecting an off-side call. 

Then Matasi was forced to stretched wide to keep out Aswani’s goal bound shot. Victor Ochieng was close for Leopards as the second half wore on. 

Thika United coach John Irungu said afterwards: "I want to praise my players for showing a positive mentality today. They were superb but we just wasted our chances. In football it is all about taking your chances." 

Leopards coach Jaan Koops said it will be difficult to beat the club in future. 

Dennis Masinde Wandabwa of Futaa also focuses on the unbeaten run:-

AFC Leopards made it 23 consecutive games unbeaten (ten in 2012) in Kenyan Premier League action by beating Thika United 2-1 in a tough Kenyan Premier League encounter played at the Thika Municipal Stadium, Saturday 14 April 2012.

Victor Ochieng and Mike Barasa scored the goals for Leopards, with Moses Arita on the mark for the home side, all in the first half of play.

Ochieng opened the scoring after 20 minutes, heading home from close range unnatended to, from Salim Kinje's well flighted corner.

Leopards upped the ante and had some good touches, with Mike Barasa going close, but to no avail.

Thika had looked threatening on some occasions and the manner in which they scored showed it; Arita and Francis Kahata combining very well to slice the Leopards defence open and allow the former an easy finish, to make it 1-1 nine minutes later.

With the goal on their side, the home team put pressure on the league leaders, in the event collecting two corners, the second of which would be fatal to them.  

Off the second corner, Jimmy Bageya picked up the ball deep in the Leopards half and strode the full length of the pitch, before setting up Baraza for an easy finish to give Ingwe the lead once again, three minutes later.

The second half was largely dominated by Thika, with Leopards sitting deep and preferring to attack on the break.

Francis Kahata and Clifton Miheso, were especially dangerous, with Harambee Stars defender Dennis Odhiambo running the show from out wide.

Thika's best chance of the half fell to Arita, who was wasteful when played clean through by a delightful chipped ball from Odhiambo, lobbing over the bar with space and time on his side and keeper Patrick Matasi stranded.

That was the last that Thika would do, as Leopards, who brought on Amon Muchiri for Bageya in the last few minutes, defended with ease.

Leopards thus held on to the end, to improve on their unbeaten run and extend their lead at the top of the KPL table to six points over Sofapaka, who play Gor Mahia, Sunday 15 April 2012.
James Wokabi of Supersport writes this one:-
AFC Leopards increased their lead at the summit to six points following a hard-fought 2-1 win over Thika United on Saturday. 

Goals by Victor Ochieng and Mike Barasa gave Leopards all three points moving them to 26 points after ten matches, six ahead of Sofapaka albeit having played a game more. The win also ensured that Ingwe preserved their unbeaten run in the league

They were however made to work for the victory as their hosts gave as good as they got forcing the visitor into resolute rearguard action for most of the second half in an entertaining encounter at Thika Municipal Stadium. 

Leopards were forced to make one change as Allan Wanga was ruled out due to an ankle injury with Barasa getting the nod while Thika welcomed back Moses Arita from injury.

The home boys dominated the opening exchanges but found themselves a goal down on 21 minutes when Ochieng rose highest to powerfully head home a Bernard Man’goli corner past Thika keeper Lucas Indeche. 

Thika should have equalised on 27 minutes when Dennis Odhiamo head a Kahata corner back across goal but Kepha Aswani ballooned the ball from six yards. 

They got the goal two minutes later when Kahata capitalised on an Eric Masika mistake setting up , Moses Arita whose smart finish went in off the post. 

Leopards regained the lead in style on 33 minutes when Jimmy Bageya led a lighting counter attack running 50 yards with the ball before slipping in Barasa who coolly chipped Indeche to make it 2-1. 

Thika wasted gilt edged chance on the stroke of halftime, when Simon Mbugua was put through by a deft Aswani flick but he was unable to beat keeper Patrick Matasi who made a low save. 

The second half was one way traffic as Thika sought an equaliser with Kahata flashing a shot wide after good link up with Cliftion Miheso. 

Kahata was seeing a lot of the ball and he forced Matasi to a fine low save on 62 minutes and from the resulting corner Glay Dirkir headed the ball over at the far post. 

Aswani was next on 69 minutes heading over an Odhiambo cross but Leopards held on to claim vital three points. 

“We are delighted with the win. It was a tough match and we had to defend for long periods but we were comfortable and in the last 15 minutes our goalkeeper played very well collecting all crosses and corner in our area,” said Leopards coach Jan Koops. 

“Football is a game of chances and we wasted so many chances while Leopards scored from a set piece and a counter attack and that is why we lost. But having said that I was happy with the way we played. The boys were able to hold their own despite the huge crowd,” said Thika coach John Kamau Irungu.

Charles Nyende of the Daily Nation or Sunday Nation, as it were, had this piece:-

League leaders AFC Leopards maintained their unbeaten run in the Kenyan Premier League with a hard fought 2-1 victory against tough Thika United at Thika Municipal Stadium.

Victor Ochieng gave Leopards the lead in the 20th minute that was cancelled by Moses Arita eight minutes later before goal-poacher Mike Baraza added the second in the 32nd minute.

The win extended Leopards lead on the league table to six points ahead of second placed Sofapaka - who face Gor Mahia today - while stretching their remarkable unbeaten run in the competition to 23 game.

The duel had built up into a battle of the emerging title contenders with Thika United, unbeaten in their last eight outings, loudly proclaiming they will break Leopards unbeaten run.

This may have been the catalyst that drew out the stubborn will to win for Leopards on this day.

“Thika came to the match talking about winning even before we had played. We knew what we had to do and were only afraid of the poor pitch,” Leopards captain Martin Imbalabala said after the match.

The scripts almost played out according to Thika, as they took the game to Leopards controlling the midfield and creating the early chances on a deplorable playing surface.

But against the run of play Leopards opened the scoring. Ochieng, unmarked on the edge of the box, met Bernard Mangoli’s corner to emphatically head home.

No sooner had the sea of blue on the Thika stands gone into rapture than the home side silenced them, Arita taking advantage of a mix-up in the Leopards defence to send the ball beyond Patrick Matasi.

Clearly on the ascend with the impressive Francis Kahata pulling the strings in midfield, Thika were then caught out by a devastating Leopards counter attack.

Jimmy Bageya picked the ball from his area following a fruitless corner kick by the home side to sprint half the length of the pitch before feeding the ball to the supporting Baraza for a cool finish.

The rest of the match was all Thika with Leopards resolutely defending.

Timothy Olobulu of MichezoAfrika with one of the fastest articles filed on the day wrote:-

AFC Leopards extended their unbeaten run in the league after a 2-1 win over Thika United at the Thika Municipal Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Victor Ochieng and Mike Barasa scored for Ingwe as they ensured that they stay on top spot in the league.

In a fast paced match that both teams showed attacking intent, Leopards were the first to hit the back of the net through Victor Ochieng’ who headed in Bernard Mangoli’s corner. The Short Ochieng’ surprisingly rose over the entre Thika defense to head in the opener.

Leopards’ lead lasted only eight minutes as Moses Arita drew the match to parity after capitalizing on some defensive misfortune from Leopards to dig in a foot and draw Thika level to silence the Thika Municipal Stadium tha had been invaded by the Leopards fans.

Five minutes later, Mike Barasa restored Leopards lead when he fired past Lucas Indeche. A quick counter attack gifted Jimmy Bagaye who ran into the Thika half and served an unmarked Barasa inside the Thika box. The prolific scorer put the ball into his favorite left foot before firing past a helpless Indeche.

Thika piled the pressure on Leopards in the second half with Clifton Miheso, Francis Kahata and Moses Arita spearheading the attack.

Five minutes after the restart, Francis Kahata shot was saved for a corner after an interchange of passes with Miheso. Moses Arita had a golden chance in the 58th minute after he beat the offside trap, but his attempted lob alone in the box went over the bar.

Francis Kahata once again saw his shot saved by the impressive Matasi in AFC’s goal.

The Leopards front line’s work was reduced as no balls came frequently through their way with Koops opting for a more defensive midfield.

The win now sees Leopards stretch their lead at the top to 26 points. They are yet to lose a match in the league this far and are 23 matches unbeaten.

KPL website provided the Line Ups:-

ALL were good goals at Thika Municipal Stadium but Victor Ochieng’ and Mike Baraza’s emphasized AFC Leopards’ edge as they beat Thika United 2-1 to brush away the intervention of Moses Arita for the home side.

There was a great atmosphere of football -- defying a terribly poor pitch -- the most appreciative being a throng of Leopards’ supporters who had poured into town.

THIKA UNITED - 22. Lucas Indeche; 31. Simon Mbugua, 15. Dennis Odhiambo, 35. Dirkir Glay, 12. Vincent Nyaberi (captain), 13. Joseph Kuria, 26. Michael Alubisi Luvutsi, 9. Moses Arita, 32. Clifton Miheso, 19. Kepha Aswani, 40. Francis Kahata
Reserves - 1. Joel Bataro, Gk; 29. Frederick Chitai, 6. Michael Bodo, 33. Geoffrey Nairuka, 24. Fahim Mohammed, 25. David Bogere
Scorers - 9. Moses Arita (29’)
Coach - John Kamau Irungu
AFC LEOPARDS - 1. Patrick Matasi: 5. Edwin Wafula, 26. Robert Syongo, 40.Eric Masika, 17. Jonas Nahimana, 4. Martin Imbalambala (captain), 50. Jimmy Bageya (14. Amon Muchiri, 77’), 22. Bernard Mang’oli, 34. Victor Ochieng’, 18. Salim “Kinje” Ramadhan (7. Oscar Kadenge, 67’), 11. Mike Baraza
Reserves not used - 19. Barnabas Tiema, Gk; 6. Abraham Cokie, 8. Laurent Tumba, 15. Francis Chinjili, 2. Edward Seda
Scorers - 22. Victor Ochieng’ (20’), 11. Mike Baraza (32’)
Coach - Jan Koops [The Netherlands]
* * * *
Referee - Sylvester Kirwa
Assistant ref - Aden Marwa
Asst ref - Elias Kuloba
Reserve ref - Moses Osano
Match commissioner - Samuel Omwoyo

So how does the League Table look like?