Babu warns limping Leopards, Gor out to defend top spot in KPL
Amid speculations AFC Leopards head coach Robert Matano’s tenure at the club is over, an acid test against awaits the struggling side against an impressive Sony Sugar as the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) enters round five.
Coming from a 2-1 defeat to Sofapaka FC on Wednesday, which followed a first round CAF Confederations Cup exit in the hands of little known FOSA Juniors (Madagascar), impatient fans are already calling for Matano’s sacking.
Leopards’ executive committee has already summoned Matano on Tuesday to explain the uninspiring start, and is set to miss the Awendo clash on Sunday, with his deputy Dennis Kitambi taking over albeit momentarily.
He will however not be spared the impact of the Sunday’s result, which could be detrimental to him whatever way it goes.
A win with the Tanzanian (Kitambi) on the touchline could be a big blow to Matano, while a loss could still be counted his failure having been in charge till midweek.
Sony’s coach Salim Babu is breathing fire ahead of the showdown, vowing to slay the limping Leopards in his backyard.
“I’m confident our hard work this week will pay, we will beat them (Leopards). I have been enjoying every aspect of my team’s performance apart from finishing. That’s why we concentrated on sharpening our strikers ahead of the Leopards match and I expect goals on Sunday,” a confident Babu told.
Interestingly, Sony have lost only one of their last 11 outings in Awendo, a record that perturbs the visiting 12-time champions who have won only ones this season, a 2-1 against Ulinzi Stars in Thika on Sunday.
Perched fifth on the KPL log, the 2006 champions are however not focusing on the Ingwe woes, according to Babu.
“We cannot talk about what is happening in their camp. I’ve not heard about it and it is not my concern. We are waiting for AFC Leopards that we know, whoever will be leading them notwithstanding,” the tactician noted.
A source from the Leopards’ den revealed the rain started beating Matano after their lackluster show against FOSA Junior’s in Bukhungu Stadium- Kakamega, watched by four Western Kenya region Governors.
“Demands to fire Matano started that day. The Governors were set to announce something major in the support of the team but it ended there. The loss to Sofapaka intensified the heat, thus Sunday’s result (against Sony) will definitely mean a lot to Matano and his technical bench,” revealed the official on condition of anonymity.
Scramble for the Summit
At the top of the table, champions Gor Mahia will seek to consolidate their lead against early contenders Mathare United, who share the summit with them at 10 points.
Any draw to third placed Bandari, who visit the Dylan Kerr coached-side at the Kenyatta Stadium Machakos on Saturday, will mean surrendering the lead to Mathare if they win against struggling Thika United on Sunday.
“We can’t afford to drop points in two matches consecutively, it is painful to lose points you should easily collect. The Esperance match on Wednesday matters a lot but we have to do our best against Bandari, in the build up to the same,” Kerr said after Tusker’s midweek barren draw.
Mathare on their other hand are a maturing team, and should give Thika a hard time from head coach Francis Kimanzi assessment.
Kimanzi’s men are among the only four unbeaten teams in the 18-team league, a record they are keen to guard against Nicholas Muyioti’s Thika.
“We have started well, although it’s too early to say anything, but the three wins and a draw inspire the boys to do better. This is a team we started building last season and we can count a lot of gains within just 16 months,” the experienced coach averred.
At the bottom end, Nzoia Sugar, the only side yet to register a point losing four matches in a row will seek redemption in Kakamega Homeboyz’s clash set for Saturday.
Bernard Mwalala’s Nzoia face the experienced side only three days after the exit of their coach Mike Mururi, headed to newly promoted Vihiga United.
“It has been quite tough but we can still correct our mistakes and better our performance last season. We need to be appreciated in our highs and lows, let our fans be patient as we do our part,” the former Harambee Stars ace pleaded.
A total of nine matches will be played in the fifth round, five on Saturday and the rest on Sunday. Three of the matches will be live on Viusasa (Sofapaka vs Posta Rangers – 2pm and Gor Mahia vs Bandari – 4:15pm) on Saturday and Thika United vs Mathare United at 3:00pm EAT (+3GMT) on Sunday.