NAIROBI, Kenya, September 13 – AFC Leopards’ stated mission of a late charge for the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title all but dissipated Saturday after being switched off 2-1 by Western Stima at Moi Stadium in Kisumu that hosted a top flight match for the first time in eight years.
Fredrick Shimoyo struck first for Stima from the spot in the sixth minute after midfielder Musa Mudde handled Wesley Kemboi’s cross in the box before Bernard Mang’oli levelled in the 70th also from 12 yards.
The hero of the day was Francis Ocholla who scored the winner five minutes later to send Stima into the top eight on points as Leopard’s stated claim pre-match they would seek to claw back the 14-point gap with leaders and archrivals Gor Mahia fell short at the first test.
Elsewhere, Nakuru All Stars chances of surviving in the league hang by a thread after going down 1-0 to visiting Chemelil Sugar with Daniel Murage netting the winner in the 14th.
Muhoroni Youth silenced Thika United by the same margin after former Kakamega Homeboyz midfielder Mike Khaduli converted from the spot in the 32nd following a Glay Dirkir hand ball in the box to separate the side.
The highlight of the day was in Kisumu where Leopards head coach Pieter De Jongh drafted youngster Duncan Otieno in the starting line-up to replace Humphrey Mieno in midfield as well as Eric Masika at centre half while benching full backs James Situma and Abdallah Juma.
The opener gave Stima confidence to hold on the lead to the breather despite Leopards pilling pressure through Jacob Keli and Noah Wafula who failed to hit the target from open chances.
Keli should have equalised in the 10th when Mudde found him only for him to feebly head the ball directly to the grateful arms of keeper Gabriel Andika who would have done nothing to prevent a goal had the Harambee Stars forward put it either side of the custodian.
Five minutes later, Ingwe raided Stima’s defence after breaking through a counter attack with Mudde, keen to atone for his penalty give-away, again fed Keli who cut inside the box to pass it on to Wafula but the decisive touch eluded the winger.
The second half turned physical leading centre referee Davis Omweno to hand Leopards Timonah Wanyonyi and Stima captain Hudson Muhako yellow cards after being involved in a scuffle.
Ocholla could have doubled the lead from a well executed set piece in the 53rd but Wycliffe Kasaya stood tall in the Ingwe to deny the former Gor midfielder after punching over the bar for a fruitless corner.
On the other end Andika stopped Mang’oli’s free kick but could not rescue the midfielder’s penalty moments later after George Wesa was cited for a high boot on Wanyonyi in the box.
It took only five minutes for Ocholla to restore the designated host’s advantage when he punished Leopards for slack defending to head past Kasaya for the result as Stima’s hopes of holding on for a top 8 finish stayed alive at the expense of Leopard’s aspirations of mounting what would have been a miraculous charge for the KPL crown.