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Isuza brace sends AFC second on their birthday

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AFC Leopards fans cheering their team. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 14- Whyvonne Isuza struck twice as AFC Leopards overcame two penalty misses to beat 10-man Wazito FC 3-2 at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Wednesday to move second in the Kenyan Premier League standings, on a day they are celebrating their 54th birthday.

Isuza’s second goal with seven minutes remaining came in barely five minutes after Victor Majid had missed a penalty for AFC, one that would have taken them 3-2 up. Ingwe had also missed a first half penalty with Ezekiel Odera seeing his kick saved.

Pistone Mutamba scored twice for Wazito coming in between Ezekiel Odera and Isuza’s goals.

Wazito were reduced to 10 men three minutes into the second half after Brian Ayacko was sent to the showers after a second yellow card.

The victory took the 13-time KPL champions to 13 points, three shy of arch rivals and leaders Gor Mahia FC.

It was yet another high scoring, come-from-behind defeat after they came from 3-1 down over the weekend to beat Mathare United 4-3 at the same venue.

Head coach Dennis Kitambi picked up his third consecutive victory in charge since stepping into the suspended Robert Matano’s boots, and he has continually shown he can step up to the plate if called upon on a permanent basis.

AFC Leopards went the break tied at 1-1, and it was probably a relieving result having lost an early penalty and Wazito going ahead courtesy of Mutamba’s goal.

Ingwe had the bulk of the first few chances of the game, first Brian Marita attempting his luck with a shot from distance after a counter attack which however went wide.

Two minutes later, Whyvonne Isuza should have done better with a lone header at the edge of the six yard box after being left isolated by the Wazito defense, Marita’s cross landing graciously on his path.

-Odera penalty miss-

On the quarter hour mark, Ingwe was presented with an opportunity to break the deadlock from the penalty spot after Emmanuel Tienan was adjudged to have brought down Odera as the two attempted to attack a cross from Simon Mburu.

However, Odera could not convert after taking responsibility on himself, Wazito keeper Philip Odhiambopushing away the ball with one arm.

Ten minutes later, AFC were punished for that miss when the lanky Mutamba rose in the middle of a forest of Ingwe markers to head home from a Joachim Omollo free kick.

But, despite going down, AFC still dictated the tempo of the game but could not get the chances at goal with Wazito defending well and in numbers.

The home side had two chances back to back in the 41st minute, but none could take them back on level terms. First, Salim Abdallah’s header from Marita’s corner went straight to the keeper.

Almost immediately, Odera couldn’t get a decent header after keeper Odhiambo missed the ball going for a Mburu long through, instead brushing the ball over.

However, Odera made amends four minutes later when he levelled matters with an easily taken overhead kick after Marvin Nabwire brought down into his path a cross from Yussuf Mainge.

Three minutes into the second half, the stars seemed to have aligned in AFC’s favour when Ayacko was sent to the dressing room after a second yellow card for a sinister foul on Mburu who had produced some silk skill to lift the ball over him.

From the resultant free-kick, AFC went ahead when Whyvonne Isuza headed the ball into an empty net when Odera beat keeper Philip Odhiambo to the ball from Mburu’s delivery.

Ingwe’s joy was short lived however when Mutamba restored parity, coming to the end of a swift counter attack with Joe Waithira breaking away and cutting back the ball for Mutamba to score.

Once again, Ouna’s charges coiled back to a disciplined defensive shape, frustrating AFC to the bare minimum of chances.

In the 78th minute however, they were found off their feet when David Oswe brought down Nabwire inside the box after a swiftly taken throw-in, referee George Mwai pointing straight to the spot much to the disgust of Wazito players.

However, keeper Odhiambo stepped up, punching away Majid’s effort from 12 yards out.

But Isuza wiped away Ingwe’s blushes when he struck low inside the box after Nabwire chested down and laid up for him a cross from Ezekiel Odera.

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