NAIROBI, August 29 – Troubled AFC Leopards sunk to further woes after they were skinned 2-1 by bogey side and equally disturbed Chemelil Sugar as fans kept away from the SportPesa Premier League clash at Nairobi’s City Stadium on Saturday.
Returning striker, Meshack Karani, was the hero for Chemelil, firing the double that lead his side to maximum points while substitute Duncan Otieno’s second half goal gave the traditional league giants who are a pale shadow of their former glory brief hope in the second half.
The struggling sides took to the AstroTurf pitch without their head coaches with Leopards’ Croat boss Zdravko Logarusic going missing after making a comeback for last Sunday’s aborted Mashemeji Derby against archrivals and champions, Gor Mahia.
Assistant coach, Ezekiel Akwana, took charge of cash-strapped Ingwe whilst Hillary Ouma was in the opposite dugout of the sugar millers with his boss and 2014 KPL Coach-of-the-Year, Mike Mururi, reportedly handed a two-week break as speculation mounts on his future after a wretched season.
Only a handful of Leopards fans turned up for the crucial encounter for the fading titans who are fighting to salvage a nightmare season with the club set to play their next two fixtures behind closed doors.
In the end, another painful loss meant the team sunk to one win in 14 matches as the team advanced to yet another crisis- it never rains, it pours they say.
Akwana made a single change against the team that faced Gor, handing defender Solomon Nasio his debut to replace suspended skipper, Jackson Saleh, while the cane cutters welcomed back their lethal forward, Karani.
Michael Khamati looped the ball over Chemelil keeper, Jairus Adira but the ball was hacked off the line as Leopards threatened a dream start in the second minute.
Their early fizz dissipated after 15 minutes as Chemelil started bossing play and it took them only three minutes to get the opener.
Karani sprung into action with devastating effect, punishing Martin Kiiza’s defensive blooper to bamboozle his partner, Eric Masika, before firing in his fifth goal of the season.
He should have grabbed his brace four minutes to the breather but was denied by the wood work.
Chemelil doubled the lead after the impressive Karani finally notched a deserved double after he connected well from a Joseph Oyoo corner in the 55th.
Akwana withdrew Khalid Jumaan for Otieno in a change that was effective with the new man taking only six minutes to claw one back from brilliant build-up play instigated by stand-in captain Bernard Mang’oli.
The skipper exchanged passes with Lamin Diallo who in-turn set Otieno free for a wonderful finish as Leopards showed the quality they can produce when on song.
However, such moments have only come fleetingly in a season characterised by a massive exodus at the end of the first leg and training boycotts that have spilled into the second half of the campaign.
Against demotivated players, the task for Chemelil to hold on to their slim advatage did not take a monumental effort, sealing the victory that will drag them further from trouble.
It was the second win on the trot for the club that has flirted with relegation as they remained 13th on 24 points, with Leopards, still holding on to fifth 11 ahead.