Leopards get their wish, but will it count?

Friday April 24 2009

AFC Leopards defender Allan Huma (L) shields the ball from Sofapaka's James Situma during a past league tie at Kasarani Stadium. Photo/DENNIS OKEYO

AFC Leopards defender Allan Huma (L) shields the ball from Sofapaka's James Situma during a past league tie at Kasarani Stadium. Photo/DENNIS OKEYO  

By CHARLES NYENDE

AFC Leopards fiercely guarded home advantage comes under extra focus on Saturday when they host champions Mathare United at Coca-Cola National Stadium in a Kenyan Premier League match.

At Bukhungu Stadium, early season surprise package Western Stima will look to bounce back from their second loss when they face visiting Sher Karuturi while floundering Gor Mahia face stubborn Red Berets in Naivasha and Bandari host KCB in other matches of the day.

Satur’s picks are league leaders Sofapaka facing fourth-placed Nairobi City Stars in a SuperSport live broadcast match as former champions Tusker brace for a tough encounter against Ulinzi Stars at Oserian.

The Leopards versus Mathare United match has generated a lot of news this week, of the wrong type, and inevitably stands out as the must-watch tie.

Cried foul

Facts. The encounter was rescheduled to be held on Sunday at Moi International Sports Centre as a SuperSport featured match. But Leopards cried foul saying it was their home match and under no circumstanced would they allow it to be moved to MISC, where Mathare play their home matches.

KPL gave them an ultimate: Play at MISC on Sunday under SuperSport’s cameras or risk forfeiting the multi-million shilling grant sponsorship.

And so, AFC Leopards now find themselves playing at their familiar home at Coca-Cola Stadium where they have yet to register a win three months into the season.

“All the happenings of the week have brought mental disturbances to my players. But we know Mathare are a consistent side with quality players and we will go out there positively, taking the game to them,” Leopards coach Edward Manoah said.

Manoah said Leopards maiden league win last weekend, 1-0 against Sony Sugar, was no reason to celebrate and his team needed to work harder to repeat such a result.

The Sony win has proved costly for the former giants with three players, defender Jackton Opanda, midfielder Roy Syamba and striker Dennis Mukaisi recovering from injury and doubtful for today.

Leopards can, however, look to Harambee Stars trialist Sebastian Muchera, who has scored twice in two matches.

Mathare United edged out Western Stima 2-1 at Coca-Cola Stadium to register only their third win of the season and will feel confident of another result against the bottom placed team in the league table.

Edgar Ochieng, Anthony Kimani, Collins Tiego, Paul Ambembo and 2008 KPL coach of the year Francis Kimanzi gives the Mathare fans that extra assurance.

Western Stima coach Fred Serenge says his team was unlucky to lose last weekend and will look to make amends against Sher. Impressive Stima side, unbeaten at home this season, will be without experienced Ramadhan Balala.

Fixtures. Today - AFC Leopards v Mathare United (Coca-Cola Stadium), Western Stima vSher Karuturi (Bukhungu Stadium), Red Berets v Gor Mahia (Sher), Bandari v KCB Mombasa Municipal Stadium). Tomorrow City Stars v Sofapaka (MISC), Chemelil Sugar v SonySugar (Chemelil), Thika United  v Agrochemicals  (Thika Municipal Stadium), Ulinzi Stars v Tusker ( Oserian).