PAUL Were made a great debut at AFC Leopards, tormenting Sofapaka defenders and setting up the goal in a 1-0 victory at the National Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Kenya winger unleashed some speed that that sometimes called for up to three Sofapaka players to deal with. Defender Eugene Asike got the biggest punishment when he failed to keep up, tripped over the ball and was left for dead in the box for Were to ride through and lay on a perfect ball for Allan Wanga to tap into an empty net in the 37th minute.
Leopards avenged their 2-1 defeat by Sofapaka in the last game before the Kenyan Premier League mid-term break. Therefore ‘Ingwe’ will be at a striking distance [on 31 points] of the leading teams, Tusker and Sofapaka, who are one point ahead, separated by goal difference.
The biggest difference on the night was of course Were, a man taken from champions Tusker during the June transfer window.
On a different day and against any other team, Leopards would perhaps not have exploited the opportunity, but to the glee of his supporting forwards, the newcomer harassed to no end, Sofapaka defenders until then 75th minute when Jan Koops decided to bring on holding midfielder Charles Okwemba to protect the lead.
In just after two minutes from the start, Were charged at Sofapaka, his dribble making a fool of three men before being stopped at the top of the box.
Before Sofapaka could get their bearings, their defence was much troubled and on five minutes Hashim Mukwana brought down Wanga just on the edge of the box. Mang’oli’s free kick just rode over the cross bar.
Juma Abdalla was the first to make an attempt at the Leopards goal, his fifth minute free kick from outside the area not to far above the bar. In the 18th minute, Leopards’ ‘keeper Barnabas Tiema almost gifted John Baraza with the chance to head Sofapaka into the lead when he [Tiema] dropped a high ball he had taken with his hands.
Then Laurent Tumba went close with a header from a 26th minute Sofapaka corner before Leopards took their deserved lead into the interval.
The two sides had managed six attempts at goal, and only two of each finding the target by 54th minute, but immediately after that Leopards got a glorious chance. Inside the box Tumba brought in a cross from the left flank and Mike Baraza thought he had scored from six yards out but he was thwarted by the upright.
Sofapaka’s opportunity to level later on was only through a 59th minute free kick by James Situma which did not ride too far above the bar, a 71st minute corner ball which should have been nudged in and a last gasp header from a corner by Humphrey Mieno which went just a foot wide off the left near post.
AFC LEOPARDS - 19. Barnabas Tiema, 5. Edwin Wafula, 40. Eric Masika, 17. Jonas Nahimana, 46. Idrissa Rajab, 4. Martin Imbalambala (captain), 8. Laurent Tumba (12. Augustine Etemesi, 85’), 22. Bernard Mang’oli, 44. Paul Were 9 (10. Charles Okwemba, 75’), 9. Allan Wanga (50. Jimmy Bageya, 59’), 11. Mike Baraza
Reserves - 1. Simon Lusaka, Gk; 14. Amon Muchiri, 34. Victor Ochieng’, 3. Abbassi Kiwalabye
Scorer - 9. Allan Wanga (37’)
Coach - Jan Koops [The Netherlands]
SOFAPAKA - 39. Duncan Ochieng’: 15. Hashim Mukwana, 8. Juma Abdalla (22. Heretier Luvualu, 81’), 40. Eugene Asike, 5. Edgar “Fighter” Ochieng’, 14. James Situma (Captain), 45. Collins Okoth (18. Dimonde Selenga, 87’), 21. John Njoroge, 11. Anthony Kimani (9. Bob Mugalia, 65’), 20. Humphrey Ochieng’ Mieno, 12. John Baraza
Reserves - 29. David Okelo, Gk; 10. Robert Binja, 35. Felly Mulumba, 3. Abdulatif Omar
Coach - Salim Ali
* * * *
Referee - Raphael Nduati [Thika]
Assistant ref - Peter Kiereini [Gatundu]
Asst ref - Stephen Maina [Maragwa]
Reserve ref - Edward Lumbugu [Magadi]
Match commissioner - Samuel Omwoyo [Kisii]
RESULTS & FIXTURES:
Wednesday, June 20:
AFC Leopards 1-1 Sony Sugar
Saturday, June 23:
Karuturi Sports 1-3 Mathare United
Western Stima 1-2 Gor Mahia
Thika United 0-1 Nairobi City Stars
Sunday, June 24:
Muhoroni Youth 1-2 Ulinzi Stars
Tusker 3-0 Oserian
KCB 0-1 Sony Sugar
Monday, June 25:
Rangers 0-0 Chemelil Sugar
Wednesday, June 27:
AFC Leopards 1-0 Sofapaka
Saturday, June 30:
3.00pm: Tusker v Rangers [City Stadium] * TV