By Steve Ayoo (@Steifmaster88)
AFC Leopards and Kariobangi Sharks battled to a feisty 1-1 draw in their 2018-19 Kenyan Premier League season opener at the Machakos Stadium.
The duo matched each other stride for stride from the off and the result, brought about by Robinson Kamura cancelling Harrison Mwendwa’s opener, was perhaps fair.
The game was largely played on the edge and it was no surprise that a red card was dished out late on, Sharks’ Michael Bodo – who was trudging on with a strapped head – being sent off for a cynical slap on Ingwe sub Baker Lukooya.
Leopards had the best start as Eugene Mukhangula forced a decent save from Sharks keeper Brian Bwire but it was William Muluya’s side who broke the deadlock.
A sweeping move from the back saw Mwendwa receive the ball outside the Leopards penalty area and he danced his way past his markers before slotting the ball past Jairus Adira with quarter an hour gone.
The diminutive wideman, playing in an unfamiliar center forward position, was a constant menace for the Leopards defence as especially Kamura and Isaac Oduro laboured to contain his pace and trickery.
Leopards however found their way back in the game just seven minutes after falling behind as Kamura slotted home from the spot following a Geoffrey Shiveka handball off a shot from Said Tsuma.
The rest of the half almost blitzed off with limited goal mouth action.
Sharks, playing their fourth competitive match after escapades in the Caf Confederation Cup and victory in the KPL Super Cup, looked a wee tired from the break against their fresher opponents who were being led from the dugout by assistant coach Marko Vasiljevic.
From the break, Kamura and Oduro both had a chance with a set piece each which they both hammered at the wall while substitute Brian Marita headed over from a great position.
Neither of the keepers was forced into making a decent save though as the minutes ticked.
The game was stopped for a couple of minutes towards the end as both the opposing players almost came to a fist fight, Bodo emerging worst as he received a straight red card.
There wasn’t enough time remaining on the clock though as both teams settled for a point.