NAIROBI, Kenya, May 30 – AFC Leopards made the semi-finals of the ongoing inaugural Cecafa Nile Basin Winners Cup after edging out Defence FC of Ethiopia 3-2 at the Al-Mereikh Stadium in Khartoum, Sudan in a nervy encounter Friday.
Stand in captain Paul Were opened the scoring in the 32nd from the spot before winger Noah Wafula doubled the advantage on the stroke of half time.
Defender Joseph Shikikoti netted the third in the 47th with Sheku Ael pulling one back after converting a penalty in 72nd before Abrha Amanuel scored from a counter attack in a nervous finish for Leopards who survived a late onslaught to register their fourth successive win of the tournament.
The two sides were familiar with each other after meeting in the CAF Confederations Cup in January with Leopards winning on a 4-2 aggregate.
Newly appointed head Coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh, who is yet to lose a match opted to go for the squad that played in the first two preliminary games against Enticelles of Rwanda and Tanzania’s Mbeya City.
Patrick Matasi started in between the sticks while Jackson Saleh partnered with Shikokoti in central defense.
Ugandan Musa Mudde and Martin Imbalambala were retained in the midfield with Nigerian Austin Ikenna and Were leading the goal hunt.
Ikenna could have sent his side ahead in the 12th but wasted the chance after heading wide Wafula’s cross from the right.
Ingwe’s opener came in the 27th after speedy winger Were dribbled past three defenders only to be hacked down in the box for referee to point at the spot and he dusted himself up to convert.
Wafula extended the lead a minute to the breather after the Dutchman was forced into an early substitution, bringing out Saleh who pulled a harmstring for Michael Khamati.
Leopards resumed on fire with Shikokoti heading home the third in the 47th.
Four minutes later Matasi pulled two fine saves denying Haile Mulualem who had ridden unchallenged to the box from the left before saving Rulualem shot in the far right post.
In the 72nd, Ael pulled one back for Defence from the spot after Abera Manaye was brought down for 3-1 and two minutes later Shekur Awel failed to reduce the deficit after Matasi punched his penalty out for fruitless corner.
Their efforts were rewarded in the second minute of added time with Amanuel racing from a counter attack but time was not on their side for the equaliser that could have sent the game to post-match penalties.