Marauding Leopards storm Top 8 final


AUSTINE-IKENNANAIROBI, Kenya, June 11 – Last season’s Player-of-the-Year Jacob Keli, returned to haunt his former side KCB once again as in form AFC Leopards stormed to the final of the KPL Top 8 by completing a resounding 4-1 aggregate win over the Bankers Wednesday.

Keli was among the scorers with his second of the tournament and third against his past employers with Austin Ikenna and Bernard Mang’oli also hitting the target in an emphatic 3-0 rout in their semi-final second leg at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.

The result sets up Ingwe for a showdown with organisers, the Kenyan Premier League (KPL), after earlier declaring they would not travel for Sunday’s final at Meru’s Kinoru Stadium where they will meet home side and defending champions Tusker who are yet to lose at their new backyard.

Ingwe who entered the semi-final return leg disadvantaged by an away goal in a 1-1 first leg stalemate were ruthless after finding renewed vigour under their new Dutch head coach; Pieter De Jongh, who won his second domestic match on the bounce.

Nigerian import Ikenna put Leopards ahead in the 8th minute before midfielder Mang’oli netted for his second successive game in the 41st with Keli, who was named, man-of-the-match completing the rout in the 55th.

“We played well although it was not easy but the result was good. We missed several chances, in the beginning where we could have won the match 5-0 but it was a difficult game in the first half since the tempo was low.

“We have played a lot of matches in a short period but it was for our benefit. The final can go either way, we respect our opponents who are a good team but we will give it our best,” Leopards head coach Pieter De Jongh told after the win.

For Rishadi Shedu; who was looking for his first win since he was appointed; was still confident his struggling team will pick-up.

“We started well but did not convert our chances, we were hopeful to pick up but our opponents proved to be strong.

“The spirit of the players was still high despite trailing since they were still attacking to the final whistle. We are targeting to boost our squad in this transfer window where we will be looking for strikers since our problem is we are not scoring,” crestfallen Shedu stated.

The Dutchman made a single change from the squad that beat arch rivals Gor Mahia 3-1 with speedy winger, Paul Were, replacing Uganda Cranes midfielder, Musa Mudde, who is serving a one-match ban after picking a red card in the first leg.

The Bankers on the other hand made seven changes with Raymond Murugi filling in the shoes of Harambee Stars forward Paul Kiongera who missed the clash after accumulating two yellow cards as well as Hedmond Mauda who started for Idah Sosthenes who was sent off in the opening clash.

Ingwe carried their good form to the encounter and it only took eight minutes to open up the game after Ikenna struck the opener from a Charlse Okwemba lobbed pass to head past keeper Kaleb Wafula who had come way out of his line.

Murugi responded for the Bankers two minutes later with a shot from the right but Stars keeper, Wycliffe Kasaya, denied him.

Shedu was forced to make an early substitution after Mauda picked an injury, bringing on Ronald Musana who was instrumental but could not find the back of the net.

Keli could have doubled the lead in the 25th from a through ball but Wafula reacted swiftly to clear the danger.

The hosts were also forced to pull out Ikenna, ten minutes later with Oscar Kadenge coming in when he failed to recover from a hard tackle.

Musana had a chance to level after receiving a long pass from Tirus Omondi but he saw his header go wide from close range in the 38th.

Ingwe scored their second goal three minutes later when Were, who was instrumental, set Mang’oli from the left to place the ball in the far corner as they enjoyed a 2-0 lead at the break.

KCB resumed attacking in the first 15 minutes of the second half with Musala coming close in the 47th when he picked Benjamin Chaka’s pass to unleash a cracker that forced Kasaya to spill before he swiftly gobbled up the rebound.

In the 54th; Keli rose to head powerfully Ingwe’s third from Were’s pin-point pass to beat KCB captain Elvis Ayany to the challenge as the ball nestled into the net.

Were wasted a clear chance in the 82nd after breaking through two defenders only but went for glory instead of feeding the better placed Okwemba and Mang’oli; his snatched effort finding the side-netting.

By then, it would have been academic and cruel to battling KCB since Leopards had already sealed their passage to their first Top 8 final.