Leopards claw Mathare to go top

Saturday November 3 2012

PHOTO | MOHAMMED AMIN AFC Leopards’ Charles Okwembah celebrates scoring in a past Tusker Premier League match.

PHOTO | MOHAMMED AMIN AFC Leopards’ Charles Okwembah celebrates scoring in a past Tusker Premier League match. He scored Leopards’ fourth goal in their 4-2 mauling of Mathare United at the Mumias Sports Complex on November 3, 2012. NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ODINDO AYIEKO [email protected]

AFC Leopards stormed back to the top of the Tusker Premier League on Saturday with an emphatic 4-2 hammering of Mathare United at Mumias Sports Complex.

Leopards are now two points clear at the top of the table and will closely be monitoring action on Sunday when Gor Mahia and Tusker play.

If Gor Mahia falters against Muhoroni at City Stadium and Tusker flops in their game against Western Stima at Kasarani, AFC Leopards will be a heart beat away from the title.

It was a crucial game for Leopards; a slip would have mathematically locked them out of the race but when Paul Were scored the third goal to make the scores 3-2 with 15 minutes remaining, they looked to be cruising to the top.

It was a high scoring game and both teams did not fear to venture upfront for goals. As early as the 13th minute Mike Baraza beat Mathare’s offside trap to release a screaming left shot to the roof of the net.

But even before Leopards could finish celebrating, Jesse Were capitalized on some slack Erick Masika defending to latch onto a loose ball to level the scores.

See-saw battle in midfield

Leopards were not going to relent knowing very well their title ambitions depended on this game. Their next attack was from a good passing move between Victor Ochieng and Bernard Mang’oli before the latter rifled in a ground shot from the edge of the box. Two-one it was until the breather but both sides had given so much.

After a see-saw battle in midfield for most of the second half, Mathare levelled the scores in the 69th minute. Leopards had committed most of their players upfront as Charles Okwemba took a corner which was collected by Mathare players who surged ahead in sixes outnumbering the Leopards rear.

Andrew Tololwa released a cross which found Francis Ouma unmarked and he cooly headed past Patrick Matasi.

At this point Leopards looked to be struggling and the entire Mumias Complex was dead silent under persistent rain.

But Jan Koops still had an ace up his sleeves. He pulled out Victor Ochieng who looked rather tired and brought in Allan Wanga in the 72nd minute. Wanga’s first touch nearly resulted in a goal.

Wanga was to play provider in the 75th minute beating Anthony Kimani to cut back for Were who simply tapped the ball into the net.

Leopards were not done yet. Baraza, who had a huge game took up responsibilities for a free kick deep in Mathare’s territory.

He floated a perfect cross into the box and Charles Okwemba, incidentally the smallest man in the box, timed his jump to head home Leopards fourth goal.