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Leopards prey on Malian striker Diarra

Malian Striker Ismaila Diarra in action for his Rwandan side Rayon Sports.PHOTO/The New Times

Malian Striker Ismaila Diarra in action for his Rwandan side Rayon Sports.PHOTO/The New Times

NAIROBI, April 5 – With two months to go before the Kenyan Premier League June transfer window opens, AFC Leopards head coach Ivan Minnaert has hinted he will sign Malian forward Ismaila Diarra as he eyes the title with Ingwe on his maiden attempt.

Diarra, who currently turns out for Minnaert’s former club Rayon Sport in Rwanda, is among players the Belgian will be hunting to strengthen his attacking force.

There was speculation Ingwe would be chasing after the signature of AS Kigali striker Ernest Sugira, but Minnaert has denied the claims saying he would rather go for someone he has previously worked with.

“I don’t think I would go for someone I haven’t known well. I was the one who brought Ismail (Diarra) to Rwanda in February and I know what he can do. In the last five matches, he has scored four goals and this is the kind of striker you would want. He has a contract with Rayon until June and from there we will kick start discussions with him,” Minnaert revealed to Capital Sport.

The 24-year-old previously played for Tanzanian giants Azam FC before moving to Morocco where he featured for Shabab Atlas Khenifra Club.

Minnaert suffered his first loss since taking charge at Ingwe over the weekend when his charges went down 1-0 to Nairobi City Stars but despite the loss, the Belgian tactician is unperturbed outlining Ingwe will keep the fight.

“My target is to ensure I finish the first-leg within the top three and if we do that, then I will be sure we will be going for the title. We need to strengthen our team at least in every department,” the coach said.

AFC Leopards head coach Ivan Minneart in training.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

AFC Leopards head coach Ivan Minneart in training.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

He was disappointed with his forwards, who could not convert the chances they created against City Stars, singling out Ugandan Allan Katterega whom he said is better off as a substitute than a starter.

“Whenever Katterega starts a match he ends up giving nothing. But when he comes from the bench, he changes the game. I don’t know whether that’s the best position for him because every game he has started, he hasn’t given his best,” Minnaert underlined.

Ingwe still maintained the pace at the top on14 points, same as leaders Tusker FC and second placed Mathare United, who both have superior goal difference.

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Mathare bounced back to winning ways with a hard earned 1-0 victory over Ushuru FC but head coach Francis Kimanzi refused to admit they are among title contenders.

“It is a good feeling to be at the top with the big teams because we are a young side and learning from the best. We are playing each match to our best and taking a game at a time. We are not under any pressure to talk of the title,” Kimanzi said.

Kimanzi led Mathare to their maiden Premier League title in 2008 alongside his current assistant Salim Ali, but the experienced UEFA licence B coach maintains that is part of history and they aim is to make the best out of the current crop of players.

Meanwhile, Ulinzi Stars coach Robert Matano insists he is not concentrating on achieving an unbeaten 2016 run, but instead says his charges want to take a match at a time.

The military side beat visiting Muhoroni Youth 2-1 at the Afraha Stadium on Monday to move to fourth on 13 points, just one shy of the leaders and remain the only side yet to lose a match this season.

“There are no points awarded or a trophy given for being unbeaten. Our aim is to do our best in each game. The biggest challenge is to be consistency,” Matano stated.

Ulinzi are aiming at winning a fifth league title and quenching their trophy thirst having gone four years without silverware.

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