Gor, Leopards eye GOtv Shield progression
Kenyan Premier League (KPL) giants, AFC Leopards face a stern test in the GOtv Shield Round of 32 when they host top division rivals, Kakamega Homeboyz as champions Bandari FC take on National Super League leaders Nakumatt FC in another banana skin encounter and a repeat of last year’s final.
The KPL and NSL competitions take a breather to give way to the domestic cup competition where the winners pocket Ksh1m and a place in next season’s CAF Confederation Cup where top flight champions, Gor Mahia will pit their might against mid-table second tier side Nairobi Stima.
K’Ogalo are chasing the domestic treble with Marcelo ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira’s side in the KPL Top 8 final and only three points from league leaders, Tusker FC and on paper, their clash against tenth placed NSL side Stima should be a straight forward progression.
However, the formidable side has flattered to deceive in their last three league games, drawing twice to Homeboyz and Ushuru FC before grabbing a last gasp win over relegation-threatened Nairobi City Stars over the weekend.
Stima recovered from their humiliating 2-1 loss to basement side Shabana FC to hold promotion chasing Zoo Kericho 1-1 and will be buoyed by the prospect of causing a monumental upset against a rocking Gor side.
Arch-rivals Leopards on the other hand take on their foes from the western region, Homeboyz in a clash that was christened ‘Cataluhya Derby’ in the first leg of the KPL where Ingwe prevailed 2-1.
Having conducted largely peaceful elections on Sunday that ushered in Dan Mule as chairman, Leopards who are coming to the cup tie on the back of a 1-0 victory over Sony Sugar are out to sea qualification to the last-16 without sweat after being stretched the distance by National Division One side Mumbi Nationale in the round of 64.
Ingwe needed a last-ditch equaliser to level matters 1-1 in the 94th minute before edging the battling minnows 4-3 on post-match penalties where new keeper, Ian Otieno, emerged the hero by saving three in the marathon shoot-out.
Leopards Team Manager, Joseph Milimu, has racked up the pressure by declaring that is the Shield is a win or bust for the team this season.
“The GOtv is the best chance of winning any trophy for us this season and I believe we need to take it seriously and prepare for our weekend match against Homeboyz with the determination of winning.
“Winning the Cup will be an advantage to the fans and to the players since our KPL form has been poor and we want to prove our critics wrong that AFC is still a big club that is capable of winning titles,” the official underscored.
Homeboyz who surrendered a lead in their last meeting warmed up for the clash by also beating stubborn sugar millers Chemelil away on Saturday and Mike Mururi’s side believe they can topple Leopards to earn regional bragging rights and bring them closer to a first title in domestic football.
The teams trail each other in eighth (26) and ninth (24) in the KPL log with the Homeboyz ahead in what should be a balanced encounter based on their league positions.
“We’ll assess the players to know how many of them have knocks and injuries, and come up with a formidable first 11 that will take on KK Homeboyz,” Milumu added.
Nakumatt will host Bandari hoping to exact revenge of their 4-1 crushing at last season’s final with the KPL side ripe for the picking having to replicate the form that saw them tipped as title challengers at the beginning of campaign.
The retailers who are odds on favourites for promotion from the NSL were quiet over the weekend when their opponents, Shabana FC failed to show for their match as Bandari secured a morale boosting 2-1 victory over high flying Muhoroni Youth to go up to 11th on 23 in an ill-tempered clash in Mombasa.
The Dockers will be missing first choice keeper, Wilson Obung’u who was red carded for two bookable offences in a game where Muhoroni striker, Wycliffe Ochomo, received his matching orders for assault in stoppage time.
Bandari launched their title defence with a 7-0 demolition of fellow coast side, Tezo FC but they cannot expect such a stroll against a team that is on the verge of securing top flight status.
Elsewhere, the match of Timsales versus KPL side Ushuru FC has been postponed due to the ongoing appeal by Posta Rangers for their dismissal from the tournament.