NAIROBI, Kenya, July 16- AFC Leopards put up a spirited second half performance as they raced from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Mathare United in a tough duel played at the Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.
Title-chasing Mathare had given a decent account of themselves in the first half, showing just why they are one of the teams chasing for this year’s honors, but Leopards whose resurgence started last weekend with a 4-0 win against Thika United managed to claw back and pick a point.
Off the blocks, Leopards were faster and enjoying good support from a good crowd that attended, they had all the confidence going forward.
In the eighth minute, Leopards had the first chance but Mungai Kiongera wasted the opportunity after being put under pressure from Mathare defender George ‘Wise’ Owino.
Four minutes later, Mathare were almost going one down but John Ndirangu’s shot came off the outside of the upright after driving in to shoot following Mathare left back David Mwangi’s slip in an effort to clear.
Mwangi fell again two minutes later, but this time Owino managed to race off his position to cover up, cutting out an attempt from Katterega to cross the ball.
Mwangi quickly turned from near villain to victor in the 21st minute, rising highest to head in a free-kick from Robinson Kamura after Derrick Onyango was fouled on the right.
Ingwe twice came within range of equalizing just three minutes after they had gone down but they missed their lines.
First, Kepha Aswani saw his shot come off the upright after racing to meet and volley a dinked pass from Eugene Ambulwa lifted over the Mathare defense while Kiongera completely missed a sitter at point blank after Katterega delivered a precise low cross from the left.
On the turn, Ingwe survived a second after the defense lost the ball cheaply with Daniel Mwaura’s low shot being saved for a corner by Leopards custodian Ian Otieno.
Francis Kimanzi’s men were eloquent in attack and twice using almost a similar pattern they came close before the break.
In the 32nd minute, Derrick Onyango broke on the right, crossed to Eric Johannah on the far left before the latter set up Chris Onyango whose shot was saved by Otieno.
After the break, Ivan Minnaert’s charges came back a rejuvenated side with defender Yakubu Ramadhan being brought off for midfielder Bernard Mang’oli who had been left off the bench due to fitness concerns.
The changes saw Ambulwa who had been deployed as the defensive midfielder pull back to defense while Mang’oli slotted into midfield.
Leopards played with more pace and looked hungrier as they pinned Mathare into their own half. Katterega came close in the 54th minute with a shot flying inches over after being put through by Kiongera.
A minute later, Leopards equalized when Aswani dived in to head a cross from Ndirangu who had done well with his pace on the right to beat his markers and bring in a decent cross.
Mathare should have re-taken the lead thrice in quick succession in the 63rd and 65th minutes but were unlucky.
Mwaura’s shot from the right came off the crossbar with keeper Otieno well beaten while the shot-stopper managed to save off a Derrick Onyango effort from point blank before the youngster put the rebound wide.
With Kiongera getting injured in the 68th minute, Minnaert brought on the speedy Simon Abuko. He could have made an immediate impact but his shot from a Katterega cross was wild and wide.
On the other end, Mathare substitute Obadiah Ndege who had just come on for Onyango nearly scored a decent piece of a goal, but his attempt on the spectacular from a Johannah cross went wide.
Ndege thought he should have had a penalty in the 75th minute after appearing to have been clipped from behind by Ambuwa but the ref waved play on.
Mathare made attacking subs in the final ten minutes, bringing in Alphonce Ndonye and Cliff Nyakeya for Chris Onyango and Mwaura respectively.
Nyakeya, signed in June from Gor Mahia Youth almost put up the winning goal in added time racing onto the right to deliver a decent cross but Ndege’s diving header sailed over.