NAIROBI, June 19- Bernard Mang’oli scored twice as AFC Leopards climbed to third, following their 2-1 win over Nairobi City Stars an entertaining Kenyan Premier League (KPL) encounter at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday.
In the early kick-off, Edwin Lavatsa and Noah Abich found the back of the net as Mathare United beat Thika United 2-0 while Western Stima were held to a barren draw by struggling Nakuru All Stars.
In the second match of the double header, Leopards recovered from falling behind to score twice in the second-half to leave City Stars stuck a place above bottom on 13 points despite lately securing a Sh81m sponsorship.
“Football is all about taking risks and that’s what I did by the substitutions that I made. City Stars’ performance shows KPL is competitive. Its three wins in a row, we now turn our focus to the next fixture against Sony Sugar,” AFC Leopards head coach, Zradvko Logarusic said after the win.
The Kawangware based side were on the ascendancy in the opening half and got due reward when Robert Ndung’u struck in the 23rd minute after being put through by winger Jimmy Bagaye.
With Leopards yet to test City Stars goal keeper, Gradius Ochieng’, Ndung’u skinned Eric Masika and skipper, Jackson Saleh to slam the ball past Ingwe keeper, Lukas Indeche with a brilliant finish at the top right corner for his second goal of the season.
Leopards first shot on target came through youngster Timonah Wanyonyi but Ocheing’ denied him.
City Stars who have only won twice this term maintained the tempo and piled more pressure on Ingwe who had Duncan Otieno and Saleh booked for hard tackles on danger man Bagaye.
In the 39th, Leopards thought they had levelled when Masika headed home a Mang’oli set piece, but it was rightfully ruled out for off-side by assistant referee, Stephen Oduor.
However, Ingwe fans on the notorious ‘Russia’ stand did not take the call kindly as their stewards confronted Oduor and the assistant then fled to centre referee, Moses Osano who stopped play for five minutes.
Logarusic made a double substation on the restart pulling out Khalid Jumaan for Lamin Diallo while Wanyonyi came off for Ivan Anguyo.
The changes almost paid immediately when Diallo raced from the left but his long range shot was matched by a good save from Ochieng’.
City Stars head coach, Gabriel Njoroge brought in veteran Oscar Kadenge for goal scorer, Ndung’u but he could inspire his side against his former pay masters.
Leopards’ urgency finally forced City to crack in the 63rd, when Michael Khamati was hacked down by William Kijiwa inside the box in front of Osano who did not hesitate to point to the spot.
Mang’oli stepped up to slot the penalty past Ochieng’ by sending him the wrong way for the equaliser.
The goal mounted more pressure on the City’s goal mouth as Calvins Masawa prevented them from going behind when he cleared Khamati’s shot off the line.
Ingwe continued their siege and six minutes to the 90, the winner they were threatening finally bulged City’s net when Mang’oli notched his brace with a candidate for goal of the season.
The hero of the day advanced before offloading a ferocious shot from range that flew to the net with panache as he wheeled away to receive the acclaim, leaving City’s defense stunned and eventually beaten.