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AFC Leopards coming to shape, roars Matano

AFC Leopards head coach Robert Matano passes on instructions to his players at half time during their GOtv Shield match against Bidco United at the Thika Stadium on July 26, 2017.Photo/TIMOTHY OLOBULU

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 27- AFC Leopards head coach Robert Matano is pleased with the improvement the squad has shown since he took charge slightly over three weeks ago, leading them to two straight wins.

Matano, previously with National Super League (NSL) sides Nairobi City Stars and Bidco United has said there is more to be expected from the team as they turn their attention to the Kenyan Premier League this weekend.

“So far, they are doing well. Everyone is working hard in training and it is visible on the pitch. The problem we had was that we were not scoring goals. Now we are. That shows that we are doing something right,” the tactician told Capital Sports.

Matano, fondly referred to as ‘The Lion’ started off his tenure with a 1-0 win over Bandari FC, breaking the club’s forgettable nine-match winless league run. He went on to the lead them to the quarter finals of the GOtv Shield with a 2-1 win over his immediate former side Bidco United on Wednesday.

The tactician has however, warned that the team is far from the finished product he wants.

AFC Leopards head coach Robert Matano (left) and his assistant Tom Juma (right) during their GOtv Shield match against Bidco United at the Thika sub County Stadium on July 27, 2017.Photo/TIMOTHY OLOBULU

“We keep on working every day. This is not the end of what we want to do. There is more we want to achieve; there is more we want to do. It is about patience and building up. We can’t even talk about what we plan to win. People will just see,” the tough talking tactician added.

AFC Leopards have not won a title since their GOtv Shield conquest in 2013 while their wait for a Kenyan Premier League crown still rages on since 1998.

A hunt for the league diadem may seem a far-fetched idea as the club is placed 11th with 19 points, 10 behind the leaders Ulinzi Stars.

Matano’s aim is to push the side to a top five position and he will continue his quest this weekend when Ingwe hosts Western Stima at the Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.

“It is a tough match. Always we face tough games but the focus remains the same. I am glad that we could win against Bidco especially since we had only trained for two days. Most players were unwell after the Bandari game. Now we have more time probably we will do better,” Matano added.

AFC Leopards new signing against Bidco United in the GOtv Shield round of 16 played at the Thika Sub-county Stadium on July 26. Photo/TIMOTHY OLOBULU

Western Stima beat Leopards home and away last season and they will be out to keep the tradition especially at a time when getting points is top of their agenda as they look to creep off the bottom of the table.

There’s a thin line in head-to-head record between the two sides over the last 16 matches with Western Stima having a minute edge. They have won seven of those fixtures, lost six while the remaining three were draws.

AFC Leopards and Matano know it will not be business as usual against a side they last beat in September 2015.

Matano will hinge his hopes on a squad that has been improving, but more so on the new players who have shown promise; Aziz Okaka, Burundian Alexis Kitenge and Ugandan Keziron Kizito.

“They have worked really hard to get into the team and have complemented us where we had some weaknesses,” acknowledged Matano.