NAIROBI, April 17- Kepha Aswani scored from the spot in the 71st minute as visiting AFC Leopards came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Ushuru in a SportPesa Premier League match played at Nyayo Stadium on Sunday.
With joint leaders Tusker FC and Mathare United having picked up wins in their preceding matches, pressure was on Ingwe to keep up the chase but they dropped off the pace having dropped two points.
Having held Gor Mahia last weekend, Ushuru were oozing in confidence coming into the fixture against Leopards.
Ken Kenyatta’s charges were psyched for the match, knowing a win over the on-form Leopards would take them to the top half of the table and they showed intent from the start with an attacking mindset.
Liberian Rosevelt Blatty forced Leopards keeper Lucas Indeche into a wonderful full flight save in the sixth minute of the match after picking the ball on the right to run past his markers and pull up a wonderful shot on target.
In the14th minute, Charles Okwemba failed to punish his former employers as he let Yakubu Ramadhan clear the ball off his feet following a cross from Aziz Okaka who had exchanged passes with Philemon Otieno after Indeche had lost the ball cheaply in an aim to clear.
Okwemba saw his efforts twice foiled off the line in the 16th as he came to the end of a well weighted Rodgers Ochieng freekick from the left.
Leopards were hugely subdued as their backline was forced to do much of the work with Aswani, Clifton Miheso and Simon Abuko failing to trouble the Ushuru defence.
Abuko had the first effort for Ingwe with a header that went wide after rising to meet a cross from Cresten Mwanzo.
Ushuru had done their homework well and their strategy revolved around shutting Leopard’s strength from the wings as Abuko and Mauda failed to float in the balls that Aswani would want to meet with and score.
Ushuru’s Dennis Wafula was a handful for the Leopards’ back four with his runs and physique but Kenyatta’s men lacked the final product when it mattered most.
Wafula had a shot from the right roll across the face of goal with no one to tap in five minutes from the breather.
At the start of the second period, head coach Ivan Minnaert brought on what has been his game changer for most parts of the season, Ugandan Allan Katterega for Mauda.
The 13-time champions came back with a renewed mentality, playing with more confidence and pinning Ushuru into their own half.
Andrew Tololwa forced keeper Shabaan Odhoji into a beautiful save, springing high to tip over a freekick from the former Mathare man.
While Leopards were all forward in search of the opener, Ushuru got there first when Philemon Otieno swung in a sweet volley that left Indeche dazed.
The Ushuru midfielder picked up the ball from 20 yards out after the Ingwe defense blocked a freekick from James Onjala, hitting it first time into the bottom right.
Immediately, Minnaert made a tactical substitution, pulling out left back Yussuf Juma for striker Lamin Diallo.
The forward added some punch moving forward, and he almost got rewarded with a 65th minute shot that sailed over the bar.
A minute later, he took on a daunting run on the right before laying up the ball for Tololwa who couldn’t get the right weight behind his shot as the ball rolled wide.
Leopards were rewarded for their pressure, earning the equalizer in the 71st from the penalty spot.
Bernard Ongoma took the ball at the edge of the box, attempting a first time shot which was blocked by David Otieno and the ball taking a ricochet on his arms for the penalty.
Urged on by their fans who had turned up at the Nyayo Stadium in their droves, Leopards piled the pressure forcing Ushuru to defend in numbers.
None of the two sides however could get a goal in the final minutes of the game.