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.
In Afraha Stadium, Nakuru big-name Gor Mahia rode on in frustration, soaking in their fifth defeat of the season when a Stephen Waruru goal gave Ulinzi Stars a 1-0 win to steady the ship after a stormy recent spate.
Elsewhere, there was a remarkable resurgence for Sony Sugar, who snapped their eight-match winless streak by defeating Rangers whipping Rangers 3-1 in Kisii Town.
The other day’s winners were Karuturi Sports who edged KCB 2-1 at the City Stadium, where Mathare United wasted a penalty kick before settling for a 0-0 draw with Western Stima. Oserian also drew 0-0 at home in Naivasha against Muhoroni Youth.
AFC Leopards 0 Tusker 2
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.
Ulinzi Stars 1 Gor Mahia 0
Stephen Waruru scored in the 43rd minute what was to prove the winner for Ulinzi Stars at Afraha Stadium.
It had not been smooth sailing for ambitious Ulinzi who had only won once in four matches; but even worse for Gor who had only won once in eight matches.
So the team left in desperation was Gor Mahia, whose lack of scoring ability [only five goals in 10 matches], is the second poorest in the league. Bottom club, Nairobi City Stars, have scored four.
KCB 1 Karuturi Sports 2
Clifford Alwanga scored for KCB in the sixth minute, his third goal of the season, but the bankers were unable to hold back a determined Karuturi Sports visiting the City Stadium for a 1pm kick-off match [Mathare v Western Stima was at 3pm].
Allan Otindo retaliated in just three minutes and four minutes to half time he had his brace of the game, bringing his season’s tally to five.
The second period was heated as KCB tried to get back into the match but Karuturi cleverly protected their lead till the end.
Mathare United 0 Western Stima 0
In the second match at the City Stadium, Mathare United's resurgence was apparent but luck absent, as they wasted a penalty kick to settle for the barren draw with Western Stima.
Kenya midfielder Jamal Mohammed, returning to the side from injury, suffered the “jinx” of big-name players missing penalties when he fluffed the 38th minute opportunity after Jesse Were had been fouled in the box.
United attacked well with Francis Ouma and Were causing concern for the Stima defence. Stima goalie Benson Mandela was also kept busy most of the first half.
George Wesa shot wide from close range past the Mathare goal in the 19th minute.
But unwelcome fate hit Mathare United when defender Kennedy Omogi was ejected just before the half time whistle for abusive conduct towards the referee.
Were had a failed opportunity in the 62nd minute for Mathare United and Fred Shimonyo had the best for Stima in the dying minutes, shooting just wide from close range.
Sony Sugar 3 Rangers 1
At Gusii Stadium, Isaiah Omondi gave Sony Sugar the lead in the eighth minute heading in a cross from Victor Majid.
Omondi then dribbled past defenders to make it 2-0 in the 25th minute, his shot giving no chance to Rangers’ goalkeeper Victor Omondi.
Just before the break, Sony looked headed for a landslide win, Francis Ocholla making it 3-0.
Rangers were to stave off the bombardment after the break and it was they who snatched a consolation score in the 85th minute, Aggrey Ongoli getting on the chart.
Omondi, the Rangers ‘keeper could not finish the game, after being shown the red card two minutes from the end.
Oserian 0 Muhoroni Youth 0
Oserian had inspiration players such as midfield kingpin John Kiio returning to normal roles and the team were to force a deserved home drew after last week’s big 3-1 loss to Western Stima.
Muhoroni also rued several missed chances.
RESULTS & FIXTURES:
AFC Leopards 0-2 Tusker
Oserian 0-0 Muhoroni
KCB 1-2 Karuturi Sports
Mathare United 0-0 Western Stima
Sony Sugar 3-1 Rangers
Ulinzi Stars 1-0 Gor Mahia
3.00pm: (16)Nairobi City Stars v (4)Chemelil [Hope Centre, Kawangware]
3.00pm: (3)Sofapaka v (8)Thika United [National Stadium]
3.00pm: (15)Rangers v (9)KCB [City Stadium]