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Ruderless Leopards in deep crisis

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JOSEPH-NJUGUNA-MUSA-MUDDENAIROBI, Kenya, April 24- After a storming finish last term where they caught the bouquet thrown by archrivals Gor Mahia, this was the year when AFC Leopards were meant to push for the title.

But after falling to a third Kenyan Premier League (KPL) defeat this season, the technical bench that is still waiting for a head coach following the sacking of James Nandwa a fortnight ago has admitted there is a crisis at the Den.

It was left to Leopards’ goal keeper trainer and club legend, Washington Muhanji to pick the scattered pieces of pride strewn all over the Nyayo National Stadium turf as he offered a grovelling apology to fans following a dispiriting 1-0 loss to Mathare United on Wednesday.

“We created quite a number of chances; in our last three games we have put our opponents under pressure, so much pressure, the ball doesn’t leave their half but still we do not get chances to score.

“It’s a big problem, but we will work on it. I’m very sorry we have disappointed fans, there is nothing we could do, we had the chances but they could not go in,” Muhanji, rued.

Abdallah Juma, who was fired from KCB a week ago before being offered a soft landing as the assistant coach at Leopards sat dazed, his dark brow perspiring as his KPL nightmare continued to unravel before him- ten matches thus far, no win.

Ironically, Juma’s former side won their second match on the bounce under his junior, Dan Oluoch, the Bankers stewing Top Fry Nakuru 2-1 days after toppling Ulinzi Stars from the KPL Top 8 by a similar score line last Saturday.

The result only served to vindicate Nandwa, who was smoked out of the Den after weeks of intense pressure since despite numerous changes made by Juma, Leopards reverted to 2014 form and could not recover from a tenth minute Hussein Zinda volley to at least salvage a point.

Ten matches into the season and the table makes depressing reading for Ingwe faithful.

Gor are top yet again and if that was not gloomy enough for their ‘in-laws’, Leopards are not the closest challengers waiting to pounce but instead find themselves languishing in 11th, nine points adrift from their sworn enemies.

Back in time

Last season, Kenyan football got its groove back with Gor and Leopards once again ruling the charts and while K’Ogalo celebrated their first title in 18 years, Ingwe had the huge consolation of beating them 1-0 in the GOtv Shield to share domestic honours and tone down the noise from their ecstatic foes.

It was a trip back in time when the two giants owned Kenyan football save for the brief ‘interruption’ by Tusker FC (formerly Kenya Breweries).

With ten matches in, Gor stand head and shoulders above all on 20 points, with 6 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses but instead of Leopards playing their due part, Ingwe have lost the script after amassing 2 wins, 5 draws and 3 losses, scoring only four goals.

Ingwe and Ingwelets trooped to Nyayo Stadium, a venue of most of their epic triumphs but as the minutes ticked by, their beloved side had no answer, huffing and puffing to get past a well drilled Mathare defence.

Across town, Gor welcomed resurgent Muhoroni at their City Stadium citadel and duly dispatched them 3-0 and with Tusker being upset at home in Ruaraka by Chemelil Sugar, they shot to the top of the log.

“We haven’t won a game in a while. We are still trying to work on the boys, just trying to motivate the players. The officials have got to come; they boys have to believe in themselves.

“That is what they are lacking, belief in themselves that they can do it, once we put that into them, there is no reason why we should not win,” Muhanji went on.

Last year’s KPL Player of the Year, Jacob Keli, encapsulates what has gone awry for Leopards this season. Forced to operate from the right flank, his effectiveness as goal poacher has been compromised since unlike KCB where the team played to his strength, he finds himself as another bit part player.

Even the coming of Juma who got the best out of him did not help as he did not get the service of balls played into space through the middle to run on to but Keli alone is not to blame.

Executive to blame

Most of the flak has to land on the doorstep of the administration led by chairman Allan Kasavuli who appears bereft of what it takes to run a football club and his executive fronted by secretary general, George Aladwa, said to be pulling in the opposite direction to his boss.

As Muhanji said without revealing much, the officials are needed as he hinted on simmering disquiet with a disjointed executive who are yet to unveil the new head coach more than a week since they pledged to do so.

At the moment, Leopards are rudderless and headed for the KPL axe unless the bungling administration gets their act together with Godspeed.

“Our main problem has been creating chances but not finishing them. We are still working on it; see what we can do in the next game. You can’t force things; you have to take things one game at a time.

“We are trying to motivate the players, bring them together and see what we can do,” Muhanji offered more in resignation as hope.

The league however, will not wait for Leopards to get their act together and should learn lessons from Gor, who despite being mired in problems stemming from a huge tax bill and lack of sponsorship, are still raising themselves to retain their position at the apex of the league.

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