NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 29- AFC Leopards youth team, the Ingwe Cubs will play Mathare United in the final of this year’s Kenyan Premier League Under-20 Championship after surviving a late scare from Sofapaka to win 2-1 in the semi-finals on Thursday at the Camp Toyoyo Ground.
Sofapaka had launched a late comeback after going two down in the first half, but Ingwe’s Cubs, albeit nervously, managed to hold on the lead and qualify for the final for the first time ever.
“It was a nervous end to the match. 2-0 is quite an uncomfortable score-line and I told the boys at half time. With Sofapaka pulling one back, we were always in danger of dropping another goal. I was glad at least we saw the final minutes away,” Boniface Ambani, the AFC Leopards head coach told Capital Sport after the match.
He added; “I am quite happy to have seen this team progress to the final. It is going to be a tough match but we will give our best.”
Sofapaka should blame themselves after wasting three great chances in the opening minutes of the game.
AFC’s danger man Vincent Oburu punished them as match with a good finish in the ninth minute to break the deadlock.
Three minutes later, skipper Robert Masai should have done better with a chance at the far post from a Brian Kipruto corner but he blasted the ball over with the Sofapaka defense caught flat footed.
Oburu who has scored four goals in the tournament was causing all sort of trouble to the Sofapaka back line and in the 26th minute he showed exactly why Stewart John Hall could not ignore the allure of handing him a first team contract.
The lanky forward picked up the ball from Lewis Bandi who had won possession in midfield, used sheer strength to wade off his markers in the box but his eventual shot was blocked for a corner.
The pressure bore fruit six minutes to the break with Lucky Safari doubling Ingwe’s advantage with a rebounded shot inside the box.
Oburu had taken the initial effort which was blocked by the keeper after picking up a superb defense splitting pass from Austine Odhiambo.
Sofapaka almost halved the deficit three minutes to the break but AFC keeper Edwin Mukolwe pulled up a great stop to deny Ibrahim Mao who had skidded off his marker with some great footwork.
On the opposite end, Leopards had a chance as well but Kipruto shot wide under pressure from the right after being put through by Odhiambo.
Sofapaka came off the breather better but they could not do much to trouble the AFC backline. They however scored in the 82nd minute through substitute Isaac Simiyu who lifted the ball over the advancing Mukolwe.
This came immediately after Oburu had rattled the crossbar and Safari missing the rebound, resulting in Sofapaka hooping the ball upfield for their only goal.
The final will be played on Saturday afternoon at the Camp Toyoyo ground with Sofapaka tackling Gor Mahia in the third and fourth play-off mid-morning.