NAIROBI, Kenya, March 9 – AFC Leopards bowed out of the CAF Confederations Cup in the first round after settling for a 2-2 draw with South Africa’s SuperSport United in the return leg played on Sunday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
Matsatsantsa advanced to the second round 4-2 on aggregate over the hosts who were trailing 2-0 from the first leg and would have sealed the double over Ingwe who forced the stalemate with a late equaliser.
Leopards coach James Nandwa, fielded a strong side that saw Harambee Stars forward Allan Wanga, Noah Wafula, midfielder Peter Opiyo and left back Abdalla Juma make a comeback after missing the first leg in Pretoria and the coach was left to rue cheap blunders that cost his side.
“We did not play well in the second half and that’s why they capitalised on our mistakes to punish us. When they scored the first goal it was so painful to us since we had to net double to level which was not easy.
“It’s a big blow for our keeper Wycliffe Kasaya, who was rushed to hospital but I’m yet to know his situation if its worse.We are now going to work hard in our league matches, improving on defence and create more chances since I have a formidable team,” the under fire coach added.
On his part, SuperSport tactician, Cavin Johnson, was elated after surviving a tricky two-legged tie.
“Leopards were better side in the first half and I thought they could score in the first 15 minutes but I was happy we managed to contain them despite having good players like Wanga, Wafula and Keli.
“In the second half, I told my boys to play our game which is behind the ball unlike them (Leopards) who played long balls and it really worked out. We are now heading for the second round which will be difficult, but I will be looking forward to utilize home matches and ensure we score more than two goals,” Johnson, who led his technical bench to a jig at the final whistle underscored.
Leopards laid siege on the visitors’ goal from the off and it almost paid dividends a minute in but Wanga headed wide from a long Martin Imbalambala throw as SuperSport’s defence went to sleep.
Four minutes later, Wanga thought he had opened the deadlock after tapping home but referee denied him by awarding a foul on keeper Williams Ronwen who was brought down by Wafula in the build-up.
The visitors reacted in the 10th when Phala Thuso, brought in a fine cross that found no one in the box to slot home but Doutie Sameehg, connected with the rebound from Leopard’s defence to uncork a cracker that forced Kasaya, to pull a crucial save.
Ingwe continued to pin Matsatsantsa in their box but once again Wanga failed to connect Wafula’s cross from the right flank as Williams easily collected the ball.Opiyo responded swiftly with a thunderous shot but it went over the bar as Augustine Etemesi, came close with a deflected shot that the Bafana Bafana custodian dealt with.
Leopards right back James Situma, gifted the visitors a free-kick just at the edge of the box after a reckless tackle on Khumalo Sibusio, but Doutie wasted the chance.
In the 32nd, Situma, could have pulled one for his side with his thunderous wide range shot that saw Williams rescue. Six minutes later, Doutie was denied by Kasaya who punched his strike but Phala failed to connect the rebound as both sides headed to the dressing room for half-time tied on a goalless draw.
Leopards cranked up the pace on resumption and they took the lead in the 49th when Situma struck home Joseph Shikokoti’s header to reduce the deficit on aggregate to a single goal.
Nandwa brought in Jacob Keli for Opiyo, but before last season’s top scorer could settle, Phala capitalized on defensive blunder to restore parity in the 52nd after receiving pass from Bennett Chenene.
Martin Musalia then replaced Kasaya in goal after the first choice custodian was stretched off after picking an injury.
Substitute Keli, aroused Ingwe fans when he picked the ball from the center to unleash a strike but was denied by the cross bar and he was it again, providing a pass to Wafula who blasted wide in the 68th with Wanga heading wide Juma cross as the hosts laid siege on SuperSports goal requiring four unanswered goals to advance.
Doutie broke Ingwe fans hearts when he doubled for Matsatsantsa in the 78th after receiving a pass from Phala who had beaten Shikokoti from the left wing all but sealing Leopards fate.
Wanga finally headed home substitute Charles Okwemba’s cross in extra time to level the scores at 2-2 to salvage some pride for the hosts who were their own undoing over the two legs.
Ingwe will now shift attention on their Kenyan Premier League where they face Muhoroni Youth away on Wednesday while SuperSport United proceeds to the second round of the Confederations Cup.