NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21- AFC Leopards coach, Jan Koops has stressed a first title since 1998 is still on the cards for Ingwe as curtains came down on the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) first leg last weekend.
The Dutchman has seen his side register only a single point in their last four matches, losing three games in the dismal run that has seen his side surrender command of the table to 2009 champions Sofapaka who lead the standings on 32 points.
“We can’t be ruled out yet, we are determined to fight till the end and believe we are still the team to beat despite our disappointing run lately.
“We look to win our game in hand against Sony Sugar to close that gap as we beef up our squad with a few signings in the playing unit to boost our chances of putting up an even better show after the break,” added the Dutchman.
Koops guided the side to a 23-game unbeaten run that was halted by titleholders Tusker in a 2-0 reverse in Mombasa. They have failed to win since in a run that included a 3-0 mauling by City Stars, a dour goalless draw against Karuturi and a 2-1 defeat to Sofapaka in their last first leg clash.
Ingwe who are third on 27, had a hectic conclusion to the first half of the season that ended in a caretaker management committee being appointed by Football Kenya Federation (FKF) to take over the club affairs as a result of management wrangles at the helm.
Two warring sides pitting Alex Ole Magelo who subsequently stepped down as chairman and challenger Sammy Aina were barred from club affairs with the committee effectively in charge as the club prepares to conduct its elections during the break.
Tusker wasted a chance to stay within touching distance of Sofapaka after they were held to a barren draw by relegation candidates Oserian in Naivasha but they finished the mid season in second three points adrift.
Sofapaka striker John Baraza is still the top scorer with 12 as he chases the golden boot followed by midfielder Kepha Aswani of Thika on 10.
Meanwhile, Ugandan midfielder Musa Muude has already left the club after he sought not to renew his expired contract. He has been at the club for two seasons and was part of the team that lifted the 2009 Premier League trophy on their KPL debut.
City Stars have shown an impressive form since they stunned early pace setters Leopards at the beginning of the month and closed the first leg with a 3-2 win over Thika United at Hope Centre to give them a third straight win that lifted them to 11th.
This was Thika’s first away loss of the season and came after their 2-1 home defeat to Ingwe as they ended a four-match unbeaten streak as they retained fourth spot.
Ulinzi Stars who were among the teams that sacked their coaches in the first leg when they parted ways with Benjamin Nyangweso are fifth after their weekend 2-0 win over Muhoroni Youth at the Afraha stadium.
Sammy Simiyu replaced Nyangweso as Muhoroni saw the return of Alfred Imonje after he had earlier quit while Mathare United saw Gabriel Njoroge resign from his post after he failed to get the side off the bottom two places.
Gor Mahia sent the entire technical bench led by Cameroonian coach Anaba Awono packing following a string of bad results handing former player Bobby Ogolla the temporary reign before they finally hired Croat Zdravko Logarusic.
Rangers fired Ezekiel Akwana bringing in player-coach Jaffer Gichuki and James Nandwa as technical director.
K’Ogalo also sacked eight players namely; Hugo Nzangu, Demonde Selenga, Collins Omondi, Dan Makori, Antony Otieno, Collins Okoth, Peter Juma and Felix Nwosu late April in a radical move as the club sought to regain its winning ways and the changes had the desired effect as they moved from the relegation zone to ninth.
Makori has since joined KCB as Sofapaka and Leopards line up to sign Okoth while the rest will be hoping to draw the attention of other clubs during the break.
A mass exodus is projected to hit cash strapped Rangers with coach Gichuki conceding after their loss to 2010 titleholders Ulinzi that it would be difficult to hold on to their best talent during the season breather.
The side was thrown into disarray mid first-leg when their skipper Pascal Ochieng quit due to unpaid allowances before he rescinded the decision.
The side who managed a 1-1 draw at Chemelil on Sunday has been the whipping boys of the league, soaking 12 goals in two successive matches, 6-0 against Thika and 6-2 at Leopards that precipitated the sacking of Akwana.
Elsewhere at Mathare, Harambee Stars midfielder Jamal Mohammed failed to feature for the side even when Stanley Okumbi steered the side away from relegation places with his fate in the team unclear.
In March hooliganism reared its ugly head during the league derby between Ingwe and K’Ogalo as Gor fans protested the sending off of Victor Ali in a match that ended in a 0-0 draw.
Gor were subsequently banned from Sports Stadia Management Board and told to offset damages to the body and Leopards fans as well as form a committee to organize their games.
The second leg of the league kicks off on June 23 with four matches on the card, Sofapaka will likely have an easier ride since the 2009 champions play most of their matches at home.
Sony Sugar 1-0 KCB
Ulinzi Stars 2-0 Muhoroni Youth
City Stars 3-2 Thika United
Mathare United 1-1 Karuturi Sports
Chemelil Sugar 1-1 Rangers
Oserian 0-0 Tusker
Pos Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Sofapaka 15 10 2 3 19 9 10 32
2 Tusker 15 8 5 2 20 9 11 29
3 AFC Leopards 14 8 3 3 22 14 8 27
4 Thika United 15 7 5 3 20 12 8 26
5 Ulinzi Stars 15 7 3 5 21 17 4 24
6 Western Stima 15 6 4 5 14 10 4 22
7 Karuturi 15 5 7 3 13 10 3 22
8 Chemelil 15 6 4 5 9 9 0 22
9 Gor Mahia 15 5 5 5 11 11 0 20
10 KCB 15 5 3 7 18 16 2 18
11 City Stars 15 4 5 6 12 16 -4 17
12 SonySugar 14 4 3 7 12 14 -2 15
13 Muhoroni 15 4 3 8 9 15 -6 15
14 Mathare 15 2 6 7 13 21 -8 12
15 Rangers 15 1 8 6 13 30 -17 11
16 Oserian 15 2 4 9 6 19 -13 10