By Steve Ayoo (@Steifmaster88)
Alex Orotomal and Ezekiel Odera scored two second half goals to lead AFC Leopards to a 2-0 victory over relegation candidates Thika United at the latter’s Thika sub-County Stadium, Saturday evening.
The Nigerian striker netted a sublime opener off a Brian Marita cross to hand Ingwe the lead before Odera made it 2-0 from Marita’s corner 9 minutes later as a much-improved second half display did the job for Rodolfo Zapata’s men.
Thika had done well to stifle Leopards’ attack but there was only so much defending they could do to stop the former champions from collecting a fourth successive win.
They were by far second best to Leopards after the breather despite going pound for pound with their opponents in the first half.
Haji Mwachoki’s effort, straight at Ezekiel Owade after Orotomal’s goal, was the only shot on target Thika managed in the second half.
It was a far cry from an opening half where they asked the Ingwe defence a fair enough amount of questions.
They created the first chance of the half right from kick-off as Emmanuel Kapchanga stung Owade’s palms from a tight angle, the keeper palming the ball for a corner which his defence cleared.
The chance served a warning for Leopards who would create the next two chances, both falling to Jaffery Owiti. The attacker headed over unmarked inside the Thika box and then sent a half volley far and wide, all happening inside 10 minutes.
The game then went into a lull thanks to minor injuries that slowed the promising start. Jaffery would leave the pitch on a stretcher after suffering an injury with Vincent Oburu getting the nod with just 20 minutes played.
Thika were looking dangerous down their right flank where Heritier Luvualu was operating. The former Sofapaka FC man left Michael Kibwage on his rears before finding Mwachoki with a cross but the hitman’s overhead kick went straight to Owade.
Mwachoki was clear again at the half hour mark but his first touch let him down having lurched onto a defence splitting pass from Michael Mutinda who was otherwise poor the whole evening.
Debutant Christopher Oruchum almost netted against his former employers when he connected to a cross from Baker Lukoya but sent it over while on the other end, Michael Odongo just couldn’t decide which of his feet to connect a Luvualu cross with, his knees sending the ball over instead.
The best chance of the opening half probably fell to Mutinda but he tried to be too clever inside the box as he curled far and wide when he had all the time and space to beat Owade with three minutes to the half time whistle, the two sides going into the break level.
Leopards upped the tempo and almost took the lead in the 55th minute when the unplayable Marita spotted Allan Owiny off his line and had a go but the keeper scrambled and pushed the ball out for a corner, getting a whacking from the post for his troubles.
Orotomal’s introduction at the hour mark was greeted by cheers from the Leopards faithfuls and the striker almost made an immediate impact but shot straight at Owiny although it wouldn’t have counted as the offside flag was already up.
He won’t be kept quite for long though as Lukoya switched the ball from the left to the right, finding Marita who was just inside the box. The winger feigned to shoot but crossed instead for Orotomal who use is long legs to a devastating effect, plucking the ball mid air and past Owiny four minutes after his introduction.
Odera made sure of the points with 15 minutes to go as he adjusted his neck to head Marita’s corner past Owiny who got a touch but not strong enough to prevent the striker from grabbing his 12th goal of the season.
Victory keeps the Leopards in third with 48 points, same second-placed Bandari who have a better goal difference. Thika remain bottom on 20 points.
Next up for Ingwe in the league is the big: Mashemeji derby against champions in waiting Gor Mahia, August 28.
In other matches, Stephen Waruru scored a second half equalizer as Sofapaka picked a point in a 2-2 draw away to Nzoia United. Earlier in the day, Joe Wathira bagged a brace to lead Nakumatt to a riotous 4-0 win over Mathare United.