NAIROBI, Kenya, July 23- Allan Katterega rose to head in after three minutes as AFC Leopards held on a late surge in the second half to beat Sony Sugar 1-0 at the Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.
The Sugar millers had a positive response in the second half especially after going down early, throwing in as much as they received in the second half but they could not hit the bull’s eye with Leopards’ keeper Ian Otieno ensuring his side picked up maximum points.
Leopards had a perfect start, getting into the lead after just two minutes of action, Katterega getting to the end of a corner from Bernard Mang’oli. The speedy Ugandan winger had broken through on the left after a quickly executed counter with Justine Omary stretching in to poke the ball off for the corner that bore the goal.
For a side that hasn’t lost a match in the second leg, it was a show of confidence by Ingwe.
Head coach Ivan Minnaert had handed a first team debut to the club’s under-19 striker Kevin Bruno in place of Mungai Kiongera who did not pass a late medical test, while Kepha Aswani started from the bench.
Eugene Ambulwa was also benched with another new signing, Joshua Mawira, signed from Nairobi City Stars starting in defense alongside Jackson Saleh.
Ingwe’s perfect start to the match was almost put off by Sony, but luckily, Mawira managed to stretch and tap the ball out for a corner after Massoud Juma had raced to try and intercept Edwin Wafula’s back pass to his keeper Ian Otieno in the ninth minute.
John ‘Softie’ Ndirangu who has been impressive since joining Leopards from second tier side Nakuru All Stars in June forced Sony keeper Timothy Odhiambo to a fine save in the 18th minute.
The Kenya under-20 shot stopper leapt to his right to palm the ball away with Ndirangu attempting to place the ball at the far post after stealing the ball from Omary and breaking into the box.
New boy Bruno had an effort go just over three minutes later after stretching to pick out and long ball from Ndirangu and hitting it first time.
Sony threatened again, this time Justine Monda volleying into the side netting a flicked ball from Fredrick ‘Uche’ Onyango as the sugar millers attempted to drag back into the game.
Omary had an opportunity with a free header in the 32nd minute but he couldn’t get a connection well after sneaking behind the defense to pick out a corner from Monda.
The millers picked up the second half in the same momentum they had finished the first half with as they pushed Leopards hard for an equalizer and a probable winner.
Five minutes after the restart, Ian Otieno was forced into a superb save to deny Victor Ademba who had been put through by Amos Asembeka on the right.
Three minutes later, Ingwe were rescued by the crossbar after Valen Mahero pulled a scorcher from 30 yards out leaving Otieno beaten. That proved to be the former Nzoia Sugar man’s last kick of the game as he was pulled out for Boniface Muchiri.
Ingwe suffered a setback on the hour mark with dependable defender Jackson Saleh being forced out injured after landing awkwardly on his knee, his place taken by Eugene Ambulwa.
Sony continued to pile the pressure and Onyango should have done better in the 63rd minute with a lone header which he bounced straight to Otieno from a Massoud Juma cross.
The former Bandari man had proved to be a handful for the Leopards defense with his speed and fancy footwork but all the work he put in was not enough to give Sony a much needed equalizer.
Muchiri had efforts twice from set pieces saved by Otieno as the Salim Babu coached side threw all their arsenal at the hosts.
Babu then brought on Jeremiah Wanjala for Asembeka and the former Muhoroni striker tested Otieno late on, but the keeper came out tops again picking up the shot with ease.