Western Stima 2 AFC Leopards 1
[13. Wesley Kemboi (17’, 45+) – 11. Mike Baraza (78’)]
AFC Leopards were wrong if they thought they could defy history. They had never beaten Western Stima outside Nairobi in modern Premiership era. An after the first half at Afraha Stadium on Saturday they were down 0-2, courtesy of a Wesley Kemboi double to eventually suffer a painful defeat in their Tusker Premier League title quest.
Was it misplaced confidence? Jan Koops had started with his most mature and resourceful forward, Mike Baraza on the bench. The reality check was complete after the first half and Baraza had to be brought in to kick off the second period. He, in the end got the only one score back for Leopards in the 78th minute.
Leopards’ turning up in strange white, instead of their normal red and black stripes of away matches, even suggested a team contemptuous of traditional time-tested ways.
The only people with an away white kit that will be celebrating are Gor Mahia, Leopards’ arch rivals who now trail the leading Leopards by only two points; both teams having played 24 matches.
A crunch meeting of the two is in the very next fixture, on September 23, at the International Sports Centre, Kasarani. Leopards reverting back to the blue and white hoops of home fixtures and Gor Mahia most likely being in their away white strip will be a complete reversal of Leopards’ dress mode at Afraha.
Tweaking with the team looked like a bad omen for Leopards. Barnabas Tiema, without much playing time this season, was in goal, perhaps because Patrick Matasi was being punished for a poor performance two weeks ago when he conceded twice in the 0-2 defeat by KCB.
While Tiema started well with a couple of good cut offs of crosses, he should have done better against Kemboi’s opening header and should not have come out of his position as awkwardly as he did for the next which central defenders Amon Muchiri and Jonas Nahimana should have dealt with.
After trailing, as a team, Leopards fought for a turn-around but some lack of tact, good thinking and execution by some individual player, specifically Paul Were, Jimmy Bagaye and Allan Wanga was a yawning letdown.
Bagaye was aimless in runs, Were’s pass was infuriatingly poor, coming short mostly, and Wanga lacked ideas.
Take, for instance, a long video study of Were’s opportunity inside the box in the 58th minute. The way he blew the chance, making unnecessary 1-2-3 touches, instead of just one, requires him to think, seriously, whether he aspires to be a long-term footballer.
Thank God, Leopards had Baraza to trouble Stima who, however, were so cool that a stranger like Henry Michel, the legendary Frenchman who is now Kenya coach and was watching, will be wondering why he has heard so much about Leopards since arrival and nothing about the rural lads who were giving the City boys a bloody nose.
In the 61st minute Wanga was in the box, receiving a perfect pass from Baraza but instead of lowering his head to nod in the ball that was shoulder height, he struggled to chest it in order to bring it down and the chance was gone.
So it was Western Stima, instead who would have made it 3-0 even before Baraza’s goal but Aloyce Mangi, on two occasions, allowed adrenaline to rush him and blast away opportunities instead of guiding the ball through in the 73rd and 77th minutes.
But the two missed chances were the only blot in a spectacular performance by Mangi who was an excellent playmaker, throughout, for Stima. He was involved in both his team's goals.
In other matches, a battle to move out of the relegation zone raged between Nairobi City Stars and Mathare United at the Hope Centre, Kawangware in Nairobi, but ended 1-1.
Joseph Mwangi gave United the lead with a solo effort in the 63rd minute but Bruno Sserunkuma cancelled it in the 69th.
At Thika Municipal Stadium, Rangers, staring relegation in the face, hoped for something out of their clash with Thika United, a team with an outside chance of remaining in the title race.
But instead, a hapless Rangers tumbled 4-0. Moses Arita (48th minute), Wycliffe Opondo (56'), Ken Otieno (65') and Freeman Mulbah (82') scored for Thika.
On Sunday, Ulinzi Stars and Sofapaka have a meeting of title-chasing combatants at the National Stadium and Chemelil host bottom-of-the-table team Oserian. The Monday fixture is KCB playing league champions, Tusker at the City Stadium.
WESTERN STIMA - 1. Ben Mandela: 26. Hudson Muhako, 2. Jackson Saleh, 15. Robert Kwaye, 5. Davis Otieno, 19. George Wesa (captain), 7. Ahmed Ali Bai (10.Omar Balala, 69'), 14. Frederick Shimonyo, 8. Aloyce Mangi, 13. Wesley Kemboi, 20. Justin Monda ( 9. Dennis Onkangi, 70')
Reserves not used -18. Patrick Ck Onyango, Gk; 28. Isaac Odhiambo, 17. Daniel Onyango, 12. Job Omuse, 21. Francis Chinjili
Scorers - 13. Wesley Kemboi (17', 45+')
Coach - Henry Omino
AFC LEOPARDS - 19. Barnabas Tiema: 5. Edwin Wafula, 14. Amon Muchiri, 17. Jonas Nahimana, 46. Idrissa Rajab, 4. Martin Imbalambala (captain), 22. Bernard Mang’oli, 10. Charles Okwemba (11. Mike Barasa, 46'), 44. Paul Were, 9. Allan Wanga, 8. Laurent Tumba (50. Jimmy Bagaye, 46')
Reserves not used - Patrick Matasi, Gk; 3. Abbasi Kiwalabye, 34. Victor Ochieng’, 7. Oscar Kadenge, 12. Augustine Etemesi
Scorer - 11. Mike Baraza (78')
Coach - Jan Koops [The Netherlands]
* * * *
Referee - Tom Onyango
Assistant ref - Peter Sabatia
Asst ref - George Okerio
Reserve ref - Amos Wanjala
Match commissioner - Joseph Mboss
RESULTS & FIXTURES:
Sofapaka 0-0 Tusker
Nairobi City Stars 1-1 Mathare United
Western Stima 2-1 AFC Leopards
Thika United 4-0 Rangers
3.00pm: (6)Ulinzi Stars v (5)Sofapaka [Afraha] * “live” TV
3.00pm: (8)Chemelil Sugar v (16)Oserian [Chemelil]
4.00pm: (12)KCB v (3)Tusker [City Stadium] * TV
Eric MURANGA [Rangers] Two (2) red cards in a season, to miss match No. 192, Thika v Rangers [Thika Stadium] and KCB v Rangers [City Stadium]