NAIROBI, April 16 -Two first half goals from Mathew Kono and Philip Odhiambo were enough to hand AFC Leopards’ junior side a 2-0 win over their rivals Gor Mahia as the KPL Under-20 tournament kicked off on Saturday afternoon at the Nyayo Stadium.
The Leopards youngsters came into the match as underdogs, having constituted a team less than three weeks to the tournament while Gor has had their junior team for the last two years.
Midfielder Amos Nondi who is also the captain of the national Under-20 team and was promoted from the youth side to the senior Gor team at the beginning of the season was tasked with steering the team from midfield.
His presence was felt as Gor started brighter and Joseph Waruinge came close with a bouncing header in the 4th minute but the effort went inches over the bar.
Wilson Mwenda also had an effort with a shot from the left but it went begging.
The Ingwe cubs got into the lead in the 11th minute with Mathew Kono opening the scores with a wonderfully taken effort.
Gor had a chance to equalize in the 23rd minute, but Mwendwa’s curling effort after dinking one step to his left from a superb change of flanks from Ramadhan Ali went wide.
While Gor took on the game with individual brilliance and minimal team effort, Leopards were playing as a team and this almost gifted them a second goal but Jack Bruno looped the ball over in an attempt to chip over the advancing Gor keeper.
Bruno had played a beautiful one-two exchange of passes with Brian Kipruto but he could not put the right weight on the ball with the keeper off his line.
But their efforts paid off in the 37th minute when they capitalized on the Gor’s midfield lousy loss of possession for Bruno to steal the ball and feed Philip Odhiambo who took a low shot into the bottom right of goal.
Gor’s Nondi was incensed at how his side had cheaply conceded and on the restart, took matters into his own hands, dribbling from deep midfield into the box for the ball to be scrambled off the corner as he sought to bring in a cross from the right.
From the resultant corner floated in by Mwenda, Donald Opiyo connected with the head but the effort was wide.
At the start of the second period, AFC coach Ezekiel Akwana made two changes, Stephane Tololwa coming on for William Musina while Richard Odada replaced Simon Mwendwa.
The changes added strength to Leopards midfield and they won more balls with Gor struggling going forward.
Bruno came close to give Ingwe the third but his shot from the edge of the box went over.
Gor came close to pulling one back in the 57th minute, but Leopards keeper Brian Bwire managed to put a hand on the ball one-on-one with Ali after being played through by Joseph Waruinge.
Dominic Amadadi also had an opportunity for the K’Ogalo juniors with a shot from inside the box but it went straight to the keeper.
Chris Onyango’s header five minutes from time went over as Gor piled pressure in the final minutes of the game in search of two goals to pick a point from the match.