Kitambi hails ‘important’ Odera, attributes Leopards upsurge to player freedom

AFC Leopards interim coach Dennis Kitambi says allowing his players the freedom to express themselves on the pitch is the ingredient behind their rapid upturn.

Ezekiel Odera scored deep into stoppage time as Leopards racked up a fourth Kenyan Premier League (KPL) win on the bounce following their 2–1 triumph over Kakamega Homeboyz at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos.

The result ensured Kitambi’s record since taking over from sacked coach Robert Matano stayed perfect with the Tanzanian revealing that letting his players do their business without the thought of consequences clogging the back of their minds has pushed them back to form.

“Winning four in a row is not easy and we especially to dig deep for this one. Credit to my players for fighting until the last minute and we found our reward. At the break I told my players to keep their patience in the second half, move the ball around and eventually the goal will come,” Kitambi told Citizen Digital.

The tactician hailed Odera as an ‘important player’ in the team as the former Nairobi City Stars forward found the back of the net in his fifth consecutive match.

Kitambi revealed Odera had requested not to be left out of Sunday’s matchday squad despite having only buried two days earlier. In a show of mental strength, the grieving star took the weight of the penalty kick upon himself and duly dispatched it.

FC Leopards SC interim coach Dennis Kitambi finstructs his charges against Sony Sugar FC during their Kenyan Premier League match at Awendo Green stadium in Migori county on March 04, 2018. AFC Leopards SC won 2-0. Photo/Kelly Ayodi/Sportpicha

“He has played the last three matches mourning the death of his mother and he’s scored in all of them so it shows the kind of player he is. He called me and said he wanted to play and I just couldn’t deny him.”

The win put Leopards back second on the KPL log, level on 16 points with Gor Mahia FC although they trail on goal difference. Behind them, Bandari FC leads a solid pack of three other teams that have won at least four league matches this season.

Bandari had temporarily gone second following their were 1-0 winners over Vihiga United on Saturday with Mathare United bouncing back to winning ways with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Sony Sugar.

Rip-roaring

Sofapaka FC, who finished second last term, produced a rip-roaring game in Machakos when they prevailed 5-4 over Tusker FC to climb into fifth but head coach Sam Ssimbwa who had to suffer the roller-coaster of emotions on the sidelines admitted he was far from impressed.

“I am happy that we have won the game but the same time I’m a bit disappointed having conceded four goals. Conceding such an amount at this level is never good and hopefully we can start defending well,”  Ssimbwa said post-match.

This file photo shows Sofapaka Head Coach Sam Ssimbwa shouting instructions in a past match. (PHOTO/Sportpicha.com)

The Ugandan told his players it would be a ‘big mistake’ to think they were doing enough following the win that marked their fourth in six outings and his KPL rivals that the best is yet to come from the Batoto ba Mungu.

Ssimbwa hailed two-goal hero Umaru Kasumba who stepped off the bench with the scoreline reading 3-4 in favour of visitors Tusker to hit a quickfire double as his side eventually ran out 5-4 winners.

“He is a good player, maybe one of our best but it was a tactical move to start him on the bench and I’m glad he came strong. Lately, he has not been scoring but when he came from the bench he scored two in just five minutes,” he added.

WEEKEND RESULTS

SATURDAY

Nzoia United 2-1 Zoo Kericho

Thika United 0-1 Kariobangi Sharks

Vihiga United 0-1 bandari FC

SUNDAY

Sofapaka FC 5-4 Tusker FC

Sony Sugar 1-2 Mathare United

Ulinzi Stars 2-2 Posta Rangers

Wazito FC 2-0 Nakumatt FC

AFC Leopards SC 2-1 Kakamega Homeboyz

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