NAIROBI, Kenya, November 16- AFC Leopards penultimate fixture against defending champions Ulinzi Stars on Wednesday night could turn out to be the match that sealed the destiny of this year’s Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title.
Defender Jonas Nahimana rose past a static five Ulinzi defenders to head in the ball to the net with barely one minute and 43 seconds on the clock to condemn the soldiers to defeat and complete the double over the reigning titleholders.
The Burundi national’s strike proved to be decisive as Ingwe moved up to fourth position, a placing unimaginable before Dutch septuagenarian Jan Coops took over the reigns at the end of the first leg.
For Ulinzi, who trailed leaders Tusker by three points at the start of the match with two games in hand, the chance to overhaul the Brewers is still on – provide they scoop maximum points from third placed Sofapaka and seventh placed Chemelil.
Coach Benjamin Nyangweso, who watched in horror as his armoury was raided in such defenceless fashion before being given an enviable lesson in rearguard action was not intent on surrendering the title just yet.
“In football you accept the results. We still have two matches and we can win the other matches. This is football, today you wake up and lose a game and that does not mean it will happen tomorrow, I’m not disappointed” he said post-match but the disillusion with the result was evident.
His opposite number, Coops was quick to credit his side for sticking stoically to their game plan that saw Ingwe stifle the soldiers for over 88 minutes.
“Ulinzi are a strong team that attack but do not like staying with the ball. They attack with players and have the fitness to play in 1-2 combinations and we knew this and were ready for it,” the winning coach told.
Having taken to the club that endured a torrid first leg to the lofty heights of fourth, the Dutchman was quick to dispel notions his rapidly improved side could be title contenders next season.
“First, let us celebrate what we have achieved this year and then we shall see,” he added.
The preceding game in the KPL double header witnessed a five-goal thriller that ended in Sofapaka and Chemelil giving the watching Ulinzi an audition of what to expect in their remaining fixtures.
Nyangweso would not have been pleased with the array of attacking finesse that saw Sofapaka edge the match 3-2 but will take some solace with the corresponding defensive frailties that belied the score line.
Heritier Luvualu was the first to score in the 21st minutes after frenetic opening exchanges and on 30; Jason Likono took advantage of slack defending to sink the leveller.
Sofapaka came firing at the start of the second and two quick-fire strikes inside the opening ten after the breather saw them extend the lead to 3-1 first through a sumptuous Humphrey Mieno free-kick then a John Baraza opportunistic strike followed.
With quarter of an hour gone, Milton Kidiga made for a nervous finale when he pulled one back for the cane cutters.
The goal inspired Chemelil to attack en masse as Sofapaka sought to hit on the break but somehow, both defences that looked open to concede in each attack they faced held on.