THIKA, Kenya, Sep 20- Alexis Kitenge’s first half goal and a Christopher Oruchum second half own goal gave AFC Leopards a 2-0 win over Thika United, easing their own relegation fears and compounding those of their former coach and player, Nicholas Muyoti.
Thika, who had picked a vital point off leaders Gor Mahia over the weekend had come in full of hope of a three point haul at home, but they could not replicate the same weekend performance in midweek.
Compared to their high pressing, speedy and highly tactical approach against Gor last Sunday, Thika did not even show a quarter of the same effort against AFC Leopards, a side ranked way lower than their weekend opponents.
It was a pedestrian start to the match, none of the two sides injecting much of pace, evidently their energies sapped from playing their fourth match in a week.
On either side, Said Tsuma for Thika and AFC’s Kitenge tried their luck with shots from distance but both were handled well by the keepers.
In the seventh minute, youngster Vincent Oburu showed some sublime skill to skip away from two of his markers, but his eventual shot was deflected for a corner. In the 18th minute, AFC had another effort on target, this time from a Duncan Otieno freekick which however, deflected off the wall taking much sting off it.
The goal finally came for AFC in the 23rd minute when Kitenge headed home unmarked inside the box. Otieno’s corner from the left found Robinson Kamura at the far post with the defender floating back a cross that was nodded by Kitenge.
Thika’s tact for response was to use their strength on the flanks with Eugene Mukangula the most sought after. However, the forward had little support whenever he had the ball on the left and the danger was quickly neutralized whenever help arrived.
AFC should have ended the half 2-0 up but Whyvonne Isuza’s connecting side foot shot from a well weighted Sammy Ndung’u cut back from the left went inches wide with Allan Owiny, the Thika United keeper caught flat footed.
In the second half, Muyoti started off by making midfield changes, bringing in Saad Musa for Michael Mwanje.
But it was AFC who began better with Oburu forcing Owiny to a good save with a shot from the edge of the box. But, Musa’s introduction proved the masterstroke as they won more possession, spread the ball better and created more danger.
However, they couldn’t do much with the increased possession as once again, they lacked the numbers upfront as AFC stuck to a flat four. Fullbacks Dennis Sikhayi and Mike Kibwage never made many forays upfront, Matano looking to keep the slim advantage.
After sustained pressure, AFC gave themselves the comfort of a two goal buffer when Oruchum unfortunately blasted the ball into his own net in an attempt to clear away an effort from Otieno.
Thika had pressed a self destruct button when keeper Owiny started the ball short to Tsuma straight through the middle and the midfielder failed to control. Otieno won the ball, played one two with Kitenge, found himself inside the box but Owiny’s foot kept his effort away.
However, an onrushing Oruchum tried to hack the ball away to safety, but he directed it into his own net.
Immediately after going two down, Thika almost halved the deficit when substitute Francis Muturi had a shot come off the upright after being put through by Saad who had broken away from his markers.
But gong two down pricked the energy off Thika whose quick passing game died down, clearly hopes of a comeback hugely deflated.