Football Football

Leopards stretch winless run to six after Thika loss

AFC Leopards head coach Ivan Minnaert in a past SPL match.
AFC Leopards head coach Ivan Minnaert in a past SPL match.

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21 – AFC Leopards extended their winless run to six successive matches after succumbing 2-1 away to Thika United in a SportPesa Premier League match played at the Thika sub-county Stadium on Saturday.

Kepha Aswani opened the scoring in the 11th minute from a wonderful counter attack but the lead was cut short 10 minutes later through Samuel Mwanje.

Eugene Mukangula netted the winner in the 70th minute after catching Leopards defence flatfoot to see Ingwe drop eighth on 19 points with one match to go before the first-leg concludes.

A disappointed Leopards head coach Ivan Minnaert said, “I don’t know what to say, it’s always desperate… and the errors cost us. After the lead we gave them space instead of pushing and that’s why we conceded stupid goals. I have a word but I prefer not to say today. The mentality of the players needs to change because we only go for 25 minutes.”

His opposite number James Nandwa hailed his charges for the win that gave them their third win of the season.

“The boys fought and as a coach I have stayed for long without a win, we played according the way we trained and I am happy they are improving each day. I am hoping one of these days we will be at the top,” an ecstatic Nandwa stated.

Minnaert made three changes from the squad that fell to Muhoroni Youth with Andrew Anangwe, Bernard Bunyasi and Victor Omune getting starting berths relegating Yusuf Juma to the bench as Allan Kateregga and Lamine Diallo were left out of the line-up.

The visitors were off to a good start, dominating the opening quarter an hour which paid off after Thika lost possession in the midfield, to see an intercepted pass find Simon Abuko who did well to cut back an inviting pass to Aswani, who looped the ball past rushing keeper Eliud Emase.

The hosts piled pressure forcing Leopards to concede a free-kick in the 18th minute but Andrew Tololwa was alert to clear the danger that had been brought in by Michael Luvutsi.

However, three minutes later Thika were on the scoresheet, finding the equalizer when Mwanje received a pass from Shami Kibwana to fire past Lukas Indeche from 18 yards.

Leopards suffered a blow in the 26th minute after Tololwa picked a knock to be substituted for Hedmond Mauda but that did not stop the Minnaert charges from attacking, forcing Collins Okumu to almost score an own goal as he attempted to clear Abuko’s cross.

In the second half, Thika returned stronger but lady luck was not on their side as Mukangula blazed over with only the keeper to beat from Mwanje’s rebound.

Mwanje however made a swift amend, sending Thika ahead when the picked a long ball from captain Dennis Odhiambo to easily fire home.

Thika could have rubbed salt on Leopards wounds in the 82nd minute from the counter attack but his well taken strike rattled the cross bar as they held on to pick maximum points and climb off the relegation zone to sit 13th on 14 points.