AFC Leopards started their 2016 Kenyan Premier League campaign by sniffing a point out of Mathare United but you could argue that if any side deserved more on the day, then it was Jan Koops’ side.
Leopards fell behind to an early goal from their former employee, Obadiah Ndege, who capitalized on a strong start from the Slum Boys to head home a cross from Noah Abich with barely three minutes on the clock.
Were it last season, the Leopard would have panicked under such circumstances and gone on to concede even more, or crowded their defence and the midfield to avoid further damage, compromising their own chances of getting an equalizer in the process.
However, they turned the tide against Mathare, snuffed the dangerous wide areas that Daniel Mwaura and Harrison Mwendwa had highly exploited early on, and dominated the all important midfield area. Former Bandari man, Andrew Tololwa drilled home a penalty at the hour mark to even the scores, the match eventually ending in a 1-1 draw.
Recruits at home
New signing Eugene Ambulwa looked at home playing alongside Israel Emuge at the heart of the defence while left-back Andrew Diego dusted himself off after Mwaura got the best of him during the early stages. Solomon Nasio was beaten for pace by Mwendwa time and again but he became more stout as the game wore on.
Goalscorer, Tololwa, and Bernard Ongoma did the dancing in the middle of the pack, nullifying the threats of Eric Johanna and keeping Roy Syamba in check while Clifton Miheso showed no signs of rustiness playing on the left wing or as a withdrawn forward.
Despite not getting a goal, Kepha Aswani was a huge threat on and off the ball while Simon Munala was the most dangerous player on the pitch as he bossed his right wing, giving Dennis Orenge nightmares in his unfamiliar left-back role.
New captain and goalkeeper, Lucas Indeche made two crucial saves including denying Ndege his second from point blank range while he also tipped over Johanna’s goal bound freekick to keep the score level.
How times have changed
When Leopards last played Mathare United some four months ago, they hang on for their dear lives from the first minute to the last as they picked up a point which they barely deserved.
However, on Sunday, they were left feeling like they deserved more despite fielding a squad that had SEVEN recruits, compared to Mathare who had only one – Ndege.
“There is a lot of football in this team,” said head coach Jan Koops after the match; something that isn’t far from the truth.
It is early days alright but Leopards’ performance against Francis Kimanzi’s men showed that the boys will be alright. They travel to Sony Sugar next Monday (Feb. 22), a ground they have lost their last two matches. Will they right that wrong?
Don’t bet against it.
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