NAIROBI, Kenya, October 17 – Sleeping giants AFC Leopards returned to the form of old to thrash top-8 regulars Thika United 3-0 at Nairobi’s City Stadium on Friday to move up to seventh in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) log in their quest to finish an underwhelming season on a high.
Nigerian import Austin Ikenna opened the scoring from the spot in the 20th minute for the GOtv Shield holders before defender Joseph Shikokoti doubled the lead 15 minutes later.
Substitute Michael Khamati sealed the resounding performance with his goal in the 77th to see Ingwe pick their second successive win and leapfrog Muhoroni Youth in the KPL table on 35 points.
However Muhoroni could reclaim seventh should they upset title challengers Tusker FC on Sunday at Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium in what would end the Brewers slim charge to reclaim the crown they held in successive seasons in 2012 and 13.
Leopards made light of missing first choice defender James Situma due to injury by piling pressure on Thika’s rearguard from the off and their efforts paid when Vincent Omumbo handled in the box and Ikenna stepped up to convert the penalty and set the tide of the match.
Ingwe could have doubled the lead seven minutes later when winger Noah Wafula was hacked on the edge of the box but the set-piece yielded no fruit.
Towering Shikokoti made up for the lost opportunity in the 35th, heading home a Bernard Mangoli’s free-kick to put Leopards firmly in control in a rare start for the former Harambee Stars centre-back who moved to Leopards in the close season from Tusker.
The visitors spurned opportunities to bounce back through David Kinga’tua and Michael Olunga but their shots were well dealt with by keeper Patrick Matasi while on the other end, his opposite number Hamuza Muwonge made a double save to deny Ikenna on the stroke of half time.
Leopards head coach Pieter De Jongh pulled out Mang’oli for Khamati in the second-half and the new man took 13 minutes to get his name to the score sheet after converting Jacob Keli’s pass past Muwonge for the gloss.
Khamati should have notched his brace when Edwin Wafula picked him but his strike missed the target by a whisker as Thika surrendered the points.
With a point separating the top two, champions Gor Mahia and Sofapaka (51 against 50), the weight is on K’Ogalo to restore their four point advantage when they take on 2008 champions, Mathare United on Sunday at their City Stadium citadel.
-City Stars in desperation-
Nairobi City Stars desperate fight to ward off the drop with a four point gap between them and KCB who occupy 14th on 24 sees them travel to Awendo to take on Sony Sugar who could end the round in seventh with victory on Sunday.
The Bankers take on Chemelil Sugar on the same day at Kasarani in the first fixture of the televised double header keen on inching closer to guaranteeing their top flight status should they sustain their second half of the season form.
Bandari (27) who are not out of the woods yet above KCB are at home to doomed Nakuru All Stars and victory will preserve their KPL place after a campaign they struggled to emulate their top table finish on their return to the top tier last season.
Ulinzi Stars, the 2010 champions who have had a roaring second term to the campaign entertain Western Stima in their Nakuru backyard Saturday in search of a win that would sustain their push for a possible third finish, the highest they can soar this season.