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Baraza’s double skins Leopards

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NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16- John Baraza’s lethal form in front of goal piled more misery on AFC Leopards after his brace proved enough for 2009 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) champions Sofapaka to skin their title rivals 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Baraza’s strikes took his tally to 12 goals as the winners opened a four-point gap at the top of the table on 32 as Leopards who are under caretaker management saw their plummeting form continue having only taken a point in their last four matches.

After a cagey opening, Sofapaka took the lead in the 12th minute when Humphrey Mieno floated a right wing cross that was met by the head of a diving Baraza for the 1-0 lead.

Leopards then spurned chances to even the scores with Duncan Ochieng making a point blank save from Mike Baraza with his feet before Augustine Etemesi blew away the opportunity to slot into an open goal from the rebound moments after the restart.

The Sofapaka keeper was then called to repel a low free-kick from Salim Kinje eight minutes later after Eugene Asike fouled Ingwe striker Baraza near the edge of the box.

Jonas Nahimana long range shot in the 27th went inches wide with Ochieng in full stretch before Baraza wasted a clear opportunity by shooting straight at the Sofapaka goalie three minutes later.

In first half stoppage time, Baraza was booked for turning the ball into the net from a corner with his hands in a poor rendition of the infamous Diego Maradona ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.

A couple of minutes after the restart, Oscar Kadenge had the chance to equalise but he could not convert Baraza’s pass with Sofapaka defenders desperately clearing it away to safety.

Leopards came close again on 52 with a Nahimana shot deflecting off the busy Baraza forcing Ochieng to stretch and tip it over for a corner.

But against the run of play Baraza struck to give Sofapaka the advantage in the 68th when the ball was worked to him on the box.

The frontrunner for his third Golden Boot of the KPL era shaped to shoot with his favoured left but instead, turned to deceive the Ingwe rearguard before firing with his weaker foot and Matasi in the Leopards goal made a hush of saving the ball, succeeding only in palming it to the back of his net on the hour mark.

Martin Imbalambala gave Leopards hope of the comeback when his 68th minute free kick came off Asike in the Sofapaka wall and nestled on the left bottom corner of the Ochieng net.

Ingwe pressed for the leveller and almost snatched the draw at the death when Baraza, who failed to emulate his namesake spurned a gilt edged opportunity from three yards after miscuing an Abbas Abilabywe pin-point delivery.

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