NAIROBI, Kenya, March 19- AFC Leopards coach James Nandwa, can finally breathe easy after Allan Wanga scored a first half penalty against Sony Sugar to inspire a 1-0 win and a first victory this season during a keenly contested mid-week Kenyan Premier League (KPL) clash played Wednesday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
The Harambee Stars assistant tactician was under pressure to win after drawing three and losing one, forcing him to throw the kitchen sink against Sony who were yet to taste defeat this season from the onset.
Besides Wanga, Nandwa unleashed the Calvary with Paul Were, Michel Khamati, Jacob Keli, Bernard Mang’oli being accommodated in the first XI in a bid to scour for the elusive goals.
At the end of the tense 90 minutes, with Leopards surrendering the initiative to the Cane Cutters in the second half, the relieved tactician who dodged a bullet, declared he would take one match at a time and urged the Ingwe fraternity, who voted with their feet by refusing to turn up in large numbers, to maintain patience as best is yet to come.
“I’m happy because at least we have won our first match this season after drawing four. We struggled in the second half but I’m comfortable with the three points.
“We were rewarded for our patience and we now focus on our next match where we need to push forward a bit and score goals since the league is getting tough each day. We have injuries but we still need a midfielder who can create chances and at the same time defend,” Nandwa said after the match.
He was referring to the need to fill the void of the departed Peter ‘Pinches’ Opiyo, the lynchpin who left the club for Finland.
On the other hand Sony tactician Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno conceded defeat but lay to his side for being the architects of their own downfall.
“The match was tough but we created more chances than Leopards who got theirs and utilized it through a penalty after my defender pushed Keli.
“I’m not concerned with the league position at this point since we are concentrating on winning the rest of the matches and if we lose we take it positively and rectify on our next game,” the former Harambee stars coach stated.
With Leopards showing more desire from kick-off, the first chance fell to Keli with five minutes of play with his shot from the right flank that flew off target.
The 2013 top scorer was at it again two minutes later, cutting in to provide a cross but there was no one inside the box to finish.
The visitors responded with Sylvester Wanyama setting up Marwa Chamberi who unleashed a 40-yard cracker that sailed over the cross bar.
Leopards almost reaped rewards with nine minutes on the clock when speedy winger Were brought in a corner that saw Victor Odemba clear the danger before the much maligned Former Thika United keeper, Lucas Indeche, then rose to the occasion when he punched Keli’s long range shot out for a fruitless corner.
The Sugar Millers had their chance in the 15th but Chamberi headed Charles Odette’s cross direct to grateful Ingwe keeper Martin Musalia. Samuel Onyango picked the lose ball from the center to pull the trigger but his effort went wide as Mike Khamati’s cross from the right flank was easily picked by Indeche on the other end in a period the match see-sawed between the sides.
Leopards piled on the pressure and their Ugandan import, Musa Mudde could have opened his account for the team but his deflected shot just went above the bar in the 20th.
Indeche had to pull a brilliant save to deny right back James Situma with his well taken free-kick thereafter.
The decisive moment of the match came when the marauding Keli, who looked the most danegerous outlet for Leopards, was tripped in the box by defender Alfred Onyango and referee Sylvester Kirwa had no choice than to point to the spot.
That moment needed a man and up stepped club darling, Allan Wanga, to send Indeche the wrong way and slot in his spot-kick to left and open his KPL account much to the joy of the pockets of Ingwe faithful who turned up for the game.
From then on, Ingwe, with so much attacking riches at their disposal, elected to sit on their lead as stung Sony took the game by the scruff of its neck.
With a minute to the breather they could have restored parity when Edwin Oduor beat defenders from the left wing to cross in but his effort found no one to slot home as Ingwe enjoyed the advantage at the break.
On resumption, Onyango missed a guilt edged chance to level after he headed wide Chamberi’s cross with Steve Biko hitting the post in the 66th to come even closer with Leopards’ defence rocking from a wave upon wave of the green-shirted opponents’ attacks.
Musalia denied Oduor once again in the 80th after Leopards second choice custodian punched the forwards thunderous shot out for a fruitless corner.
Biko had another miss three minutes later, this time hitting the post from the edge of the box with Musalia beaten but Oduor’s close range header went wide as the relieved Leopards claimed their first win this season.
The result saw Leopards leap to ninth from with six points while Sony remained second with 10 wondering how they did not at least settle for the point they deserved.
Leopards next invite table toppers Chemeli Sugar on Saturday while Sony plays Nairobi City Stars on Sunday at Nyayo National Stadium.