NAKURU, Kenya, Oct 14- James Saruni’s howler in the 89th minute handed AFC Leopards a vital point against Ulinzi Stars as Ingwe twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on Friday.
Ulinzi seemed destined for a win but Saruni let Mungai Kiongera’s seemingly harmless shot from distance slip between his arms, just 10 minutes after Leopards had been reduced to ten men following Allan Katterega’s red card.
Daniel Waweru had scored a brace in the first half but Saruni’s error meant the two sides shared spoils.
The midfielder opened the scores in the sixth minute after tapping in a Sammy Onyango before scoring a penalty at the stroke of half time, coming just four minutes after Kepha Aswani had given Leopards a lifeline with an equalizer.
Ulinzi Stars began strongly and as early as the first minute of the match, they had already shown intent.
Brian Birgen dribbled to the edge of the box after the start, managing to find some space and shoot but Lucas Indeche was hawk eyed to parry away the ball.
AFC Leopards were dealt a huge blow when midfielder Bernard Mang’oli limped out injured after quarter of an hour and was replaced by Kiongera.
With Mang’oli out injured, the task of combating well-built Leopards midfield was left to Bernard Ongoma and Andrew Tololwa but Ulinzi’s duo of John Kago and Boniface Onyango did well to win most of the balls with Onyango mostly doing the distribution work.
The soldiers came close again in the 32nd minute when Omar Mbongi switched the ball well from the left to Waweru on the right witth the winger back-heeling the ball to Brian Birgen whose shot though went straight to Lucas Indeche.
In the 40th minute, Juma swung in a decent corner from the left but Mungai Kiongera’s header at the far post unmarked went inches wide.
But two minutes later, his delivery prowess resulted to the equalizer. Tololwa headed the ball back into the area from the far post with Aswani nodding it in, bouncing on the inside of the upright and across the line despite Saruni’s late effort to salvage.
Ulinzi though got back into the lead at the stroke of half time from the penalty spot.
Waweru was brought down inside the box by Jackson Saleh and he stepped forward to take responsibility, sending Indeche the wrong way.
At the start of the second half, stand-in coach Benjamin Nyangweso brought on his top scorer John Mark Makwatta for Sammy Onyango and the 12-goal man almost had an immediate impact but Indeche produced a full stretched save to keep him out.
Waweru won the ball after a defensive error from AFC Leopards, putting Makwatta through but the striker’s effort at curling the ball into the far post was thwarted.
Ezekiel Akwana’s boys stepped up with pressure mounting from the handful of fans who had travelled to the Rift Valley town.
On the hour mark, they came very close but Sylus Shitote who had a superb game slid in to block an effort from Kiongera at the far post from Simon Abuko’s low cross.
AFC were reduced to ten men with 13 minutes left on the clock after Allan Katterega was shown a straight red for a stamp on Birgen.
Even with the numerical disadvantage, Leopards pounded the Ulinzi area and they were rewarded in the 89th minute when Kiongera shot from distance with the ball slipping between Saruni’s arms.