MACHAKOS, Kenya, May 25 – AFC Leopards did Gor Mahia a favour after holding Tusker FC 2-2 in a SportPesa Premier League match hosted at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Wednesday.
The draw meant defending champions Gor Mahia cruised to the top of the standings for the first time this season on 29 points, same as Tusker, who dropped to second as they have an inferior goal difference.
Gor will sit pretty at the summit ahead of the second leg unless Ulinzi Stars score more than five goals in their Thursday match against Kakamega Homeboyz.
Leopards were headed for a win but Ekaliani Ndolo scored at stoppage time, just a minute after Allan Katterega had netted what looked like a winner for Ingwe.
At the stroke of halftime, youngster Alfred Wekesa broke the deadlock with a calm finish after beating Tusker defender Lloyd Wahome to pick up a through pass from Kepha Aswani.
It was a deserved goal for Leopards, who had more urgency to get a goal, playing all their balls upfront, knowing they could not afford another slip up after losing four of their last five matches.
In a bid to turn the tide for his side, Leopards head coach Ivan Minnaert made several changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Thika United last weekend.
First choice goalkeeper Lucas Indeche was rested for youngster Edwin Mukolwe while Bernard Ongoma was pulled back to the heart of defence, swapping places with Eugene Ambulwa who was deployed in defensive midfield.
Wekesa was also handed his second start since joining Leopards, going in ahead of Hedmond Mauda
Wekesa was a thorn in Leopards’ flesh and he nearly found the opener at the quarter hour mark after turning Martin Kiiza inside out but Tusker keeper David Okello saved the effort.
Tusker replied back when Shafik Batambuze came inches in the 34th minute but his rasping shot from the left went slightly over the bar.
Leopards’ keeper Mukolwe was called into a great save seven minutes from the second half, flying high to tip over a shot from Batambuze who picked up a rebound after his freekick hit the bar.
Paul Nkata’s side kept the pressure and they finally got the equalizer in the 64th minute from the penalty spot after Ramadhan Yakub handled the ball inside the box to see Batambuze score the resultant spot kick.
Mukolwe was called into action again with 15 minutes left, this time putting his body strongly behind the ball to keep out a ferocious free kick from captain James Situma.
On the counter, Ingwe had a chance to steal the lead back but the effort was wasted with substitute Lamin Diallo shooting wide after doing well to dummy past Situma and Asike with Wekesa screaming for the ball at the edge of the six yard box.
Wekesa had a chance from the counter again with two minutes to spare but his effort went wide after beating Okello.
Leopards managed to score what looked like a winner in the final minutes of added time when Katterega curled a low effort to the far post after Wekesa’s initial foray upfront was blocked by Wahome.
However, Ndolo scored into an empty net after Mukolwe let the ball off from a cross for the former Sofapaka midfielder to slap home the leveller.