NAIROBI, Kenya, May 2- Despite losing 5-4 on post-match penalties to arch rivals Gor Mahia in the Hull City play-off match, AFC Leopards new boss Radolfo Zapata says he was impressed with the fighting spirit displayed by his charges.
Speaking to Capital Sport after the exciting encounter at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium, Zapata noted that the quality exhibited by his players showed that they can head back to the Kenyan Premier League and fight for the crown, though he admitted he needs time to get his philosophy through.
“It was a very exciting game and my boys put in great effort. They fought and played well to the last minute. We lost on penalties; which is anybody’s game but in the 90 minutes I am happy with what they gave,” the tactician noted.
“I am proud of their performance. They created so many opportunities to score but sometimes this is how football is. We move forward to the league now and I am happy because the players are responding to my philosophy,” the tactician further explained.
Zapata fielded his strongest squad for the match, perhaps the only absentee being defender Salim ‘Shitu’ Abdallah who is nursing an injury.
He now hopes the passion and fighting spirit exhibited in the derby will be translated in the league where Ingwe are struggling with a run of five winless matches.
“I know our supporters are not happy that we lost in the derby, but we promise them we will fight for them in the league. We need to keep working step by step because the league is still open and I think so far we are in the right way,” added the Argentine coach.
Against Gor, AFC Leopards kept their first clean sheet in five games, having conceded a total of eight goals over that period of time.
This was mostly attributed to keeper youngster Ezekiel Owade who made his first start for Ingwe since moving from Nakumatt FC in January.
The blundering duo of Jairus Adira and Gabriel Andika might now find it hard to get their first team gloves back after Owade’s performance.
“I think he (Owade) did really well but overall I think we improved in defense from the two matches I have watched. We still need to improve in more aspects moving forward because there is work to do. But we have the quality,” the tactician further noted.
AFC will travel to Kisumu on Saturday for their 14th Kenyan Premier league fixture this season, taking on their Achilles heel, Chemelil Sugar.