NAIROBI, September 12 – Troubled AFC Leopards bobbled back to winning ways after short-circuiting Western Stima 1-0 in a SportPesa Premier League clash played at a yawning Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani on Saturday.
Midfielder, Bernard Mang’oli gave Leopards the winner from the spot in the 39th minute to give the Ingwe faithful who were barred from the match as the club played its first of two league games behind closed doors as punishment for hooliganism after going six without victory.
Croat head coach, Zdravko Logarusic who missed the 2-1 defeat to bogey side Chemelil Sugar returned to the touchline and weaved his ‘Loga magic’ to haul the club back to the top five.
“We won today because Stima were tactically inept. I’m pleased with the result but not how we played. They talked too much ahead of the game and in the end, we have beaten them,” Logarusic, losing none of the flamboyance that marks him out as a media darling told the few press hounds present.
“I had only 16 players available and with those numbers you need to play around with the team. I’m happy we won, it was important and my players did their best,” he underlined after deploying former Harambee Stars stopper, Eric Masika, as a deep lying midfielder.
Although he had 18 squad players in total, the Croat deemed two of his players not good enough to feature in his plans as he rung four chances to the squad that played last under the tutelage of Ezekiel Akwana, his dread-locked assistant.
His opposite number Henry Omino asserted his wasteful side that shaded the chances created on the day had ‘gifted Leopards victory’.
“Tactically inept? If that is what he said, maybe he does not know the meaning of the word inept. We played the better football, had the most chances and the penalty was a gift.
“Their man was facing away from goal and bringing him down was unnecessary. We were very unlucky and the better team lost,” Omino said in retort to Logarusic’s view they got their game plan wrong.
However, he admitted their toothless habit in front of goal was a matter of concern as the electricity merchants saw their toil end in an undeserved loss.
The result does not reflect the true nature of the match because we dominated but we could not score. It is one area we want to improve on even as we continue working for a top five finish,” Omino, rued.
With ‘Luhyalusic’ back prowling the Ingwe touchline, the struggling league titans started the better in a game that kicked off at 11am, his voice echoing around the country’s biggest sports theatre as he shouted instructions to his players.
Skipper, Jackson Saleh returned from suspension, with Masika moving up to defensive midfield as Mike Khamati being played as a lone striker.
After four minutes of play, Ivan Anguyo had a good opportunity from the set-piece but he skied his effort.
The best chance for the home side would come in the seventh when Duncan Otieno floated in a fine cross from the left to find Mang’oli who headed goal wards but Stima keeper, Gabriel Andika tipped it over.
The resultant corner saw Andika thwart Anguyo’s attempt from a volley at the edge of the box with Saleh rattling the cross bar from the rebound.
At the quarter hour mark, Leopards were forced to introduce Khalid Jumaan for Otieno who limped off injured but even before he could settle, Stima had two open chances but Wesley Kemboi missed the low cross from John Kiplagat that evaded everyone in a blue and white stripped jersey.
Stima once again found joy on the left and got a corner only for Kemboi’s well taken half volley that ended inside the net only for their joy to be cut short when it was chalked off for an earlier foul when the ball first floated in.
Ingwe, were rewarded five minutes to the breather after Daniel Makachi hacked down Khamati inside the box to give Mang’oli, one of the bright lights in a wretched season for Leopards, step up to convert for the opener.
Stima kept up the attacks in the second half with Kemboi coming close when he brushed his header to the crossbar from Eston Esiye corner.
Omino brought on in David Okello for Esiye and Fred Nyarombo for Baron Oketch but despite mounting pressure on a tiring Leopards side, they could not fashion an equaliser.
Joseph Njuguna was sent off for a second yellow for dissent after leaving the field of play having been withdrawn after exchanging some harsh words with the ref.
This however, did not affect the full compliment on the field as he was ushered from the bench for an early bath as Leopards held on to return to fifth on 38 points, five ahead of Stima who remained ninth.
However, the boardroom shenanigans at The Den this season continued post-match when both factions claiming control addressed the media to say they were in charge.
And no sooner had light shone at the end of the tunnel, another unnecessary round of managerial infighting emerged to cast a dark cloud over the Tower of Babel that has been AFC Leopards in 2015.