NAIROBI, Kenya, June 15 – Clifford Alwanga struck a second half winner as Tusker FC successfully defended the KPL Top 8 title by silencing AFC Leopards 2-1 in a thrilling final staged at Meru’s Kinoru Stadium on Sunday.
Coach Francis Kimanzi not only won his maiden trophy with the Brewers but led his side to history books by becoming the first team to retain the trophy since its inception in 2010.
Defender Lloyd Wahome opened the scoring for the home side in the 11th minute through a powerful header before towering defender Joseph Shikokoti levelled for Leopards in the 35th as Meru hosted her first domestic football final.
The hero of the day Alwanga capitalized on a defensive lapse to score the decisive goal in with a quarter of an hour left as the Brewers held on for the honours.
Playing without their head coach Pieter De Jongh, who travelled back to Netherlands to visit his sick father, Leopards started with Eric Masika at the back for captain Martin Imbalambala while Oscar Kadenge relegated Musa Mudde to the bench.
For Tusker, Kimanzi, made a single change to the squad that beat Mathare United 3-0 with Athman Buki starting for Luke Ochieng.
Tusker could have gone ahead as early as in the third minute after in form Brian Osumba manoeuvred in the midfield to launch a counter attack, crossing the ball to Kevin Kimani who cut in but the ball was too strong for Bob Mugalia to head home.
Jacob Keli responded swiftly on the other end, making a good run from the right to unleash a shot that was repelled by skipper and keeper Samuel Odhiambo for a fruitless corner.
Leopards who were playing their first Top 8 final continued to attack with in form Charles Okwemba, making a dazzling run on the left to find winger Paul Were but defender Jockins Atudo intercepted to clear the danger in the seventh minute.
Tusker’s goal came in four minutes later when former Mathare United defender Wahome, rose highest to powerfully head in Kevin Kimani’s well curved corner to break the deadlock and send the home crowd into ectasy.
The goal knocked the sting out of the game as both teams settled to build from the back.
Mugalia squandered a chance from a close range after he failed to head Kimani’s cross and this gave Ingwe the opportunity to restore parity in the 35th through Shikokoti who capitalized on Atudo’s poor clearance to head in against his former side and make the match open.
It was however, Tusker, who had an upper hand as the last-half with keeper Wycliffe Kasaya thwarting Osumba’s header.
Leopards rested Bernard Mang’oli for Noah Wafula but Tusker forwards continued to pile pressure at the back.
Their efforts were rewarded in the 75th when Alwanga slammed home the winner from a goal mouth scuffle after Leopards defenders slipped to give his charges the first trophy of the season.