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Mathare beat Ingwe Cubs on penalties to retain KPL U20 title

Mathare United players celebrate after winning the KPL U20 Championship for the second time after beating AFC Leopards 4-2 on post match penalties on December 31, 2016. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31- Mathare United became the first team to win the Kenyan Premier League Under-20 championship back to back after beating AFC Leopards 4-2 on post match penalties in the final played at a fully packed Camp Toyoyo Ground on Saturday evening.

The game was forced into penalties after a 1-1 stalemate in regulation and extra time with both sides providing a final to behold with competitive football.

“I am really pleased with what we have achieved as a team. It has been a difficult journey but today we managed to get it over the line. It wasn’t the easiest of matches, but the players gave in their all. I am happy we are the first team to win this title back to back,” Yussuf Chippo, the Mathare U20 coach said after the game.

His opposite number Boniface Ambani was distraught after the final and he cut a depressed figure on the touchline and on the pitch after the penalties.

“It is football. Penalties are about luck. We had chances in the match which we should have scored. We move on from here. I will try to maintain this same team despite the fact there are many players who are being eyed by other teams. We will come back in April a better side,” Ambani told Capital Sport.

Ex-Laiser Hill School utility player David ‘Messi’ Owino scored the decisive penalty after AFC Leopards’ senior team midfielder Harun Nyakha and captain Robert Masai missed their kicks.

Lennox Ogutu took the first kick for Mathare and ploughed it straight through the middle. Nyakha stepped up, but he saw his kick come off the upright with Mathare keeper Job Ochieng going the wrong way.

Abdallah Ahmed stepped up next for Mathare, took his kick into the far left of Edwin Mukolwe’s goal for a 2-0 lead. Masai had a chance to draw Leopards back into the match but he struck his effort high and wide.

Mathare’s John Mwangi however gave the Ingwe Cubs some hope when he struck the crossbar with the third kick and Erick Kinuthia scored for the Cabs to take the score to 2-1.

Both Samuel Semo for Mathare and Austine Odhiambo for AFC scored the fourth kicks and it was now left for keeper Mukolwe to keep his side in the game. However, Owino stepped up and in the coolest of fashions made no mistake to hand his side the title.

AFC Leopards forward Austine Odhiambo in action against mathare United’s Lennox Ogutu in the Kenyan Premier League Under-20 Championship final at Camp Toyoyo on December 31, 2016. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

AFC had fought from a goal down after conceding early with Odhiambo equalizing in the 85th minute with a simple tap in from Vincent Oburu cross.

The lanky forward who has been the AFC engine throughout the tournament had labored his way on the left before outmuscling his markers and squaring the ball into the box for Odhiambo to tap in unmarked at the far post.

Mathare had gone ahead in the 14th minute through Ahmed whose well struck free kick from the edge of the box went under the wall and into the far left bottom corner.

Mathare had started the game superbly and were passing the ball well, beating AFC with their technical know-how and tactical discipline. Despite a huge crowd putting their voice behind AFC, they could not settle into the game quickly.

The closest they came was an Odhiambo shot in the 35th minute which was well saved by the Mathare keeper and the defense clearing the spills.

AFC Leopards Youth coach Boniface Ambani watches in dissapointment after his side lost on penalties to Mathare United in the KPL U20 Championship final on December 31, 2016. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Mathare had two great chances to bury the game. Mwangi had the first in the 41st minute from a swiftly executed counter attack, but his attempted cross to Peter Wanyonyi inside the box was disappointing, Mukolwe collecting easy.

At the stroke of half time, Ahmed saw his shot from the edge of the box go inches over after some pleasant skill to get off his markers.

In the second half, AFC came back better  and were rewarded five minutes from time.

The 30 extra minutes saw the two sides go toe to toe again and it came down to luck and good goalkeeping to push the game to penalties.

Mukolwe made the first super stop in the 94th minute to tip over a well taken free kick by Jackson Dwang while on the other end, Job Ochieng pulled what might be the save of the tournament with a superb tip over to deny a Brian Kipruto volley from distance.