Nandwa thrilled by sticking the knife to fading Leopards

Nandwa thrilled by sticking the knife to fading Leopards

James Nandwa was thrilled by victory over former club and flailing Kenyan Premier League (KPL) giants, AFC Leopards saying it vindicates his belief Thika United will beat the drop this season.

After being goaded by his former faithful, the former Harambee Stars boss relished doing one over the opponents he led to second in the 2014 campaign to pile on the woes for the visitors who once again failed to hold on to an advantage.

Nandwa’s charges rallied from a goal down to sink his former employers 2-1 in an end-to-end game at Thika Municipal Stadium on Saturday afternoon to lift the milkmen further away from the relegation places with 14 points on the board.

Former Thika striker Kepha Aswani opened the scores in the 12th minute for Ingwe before Samuel Mwanje and Eugine Mukangula netted in each half to turn the game on its head for maximum points in a third victory of the season. Leopards remained stuck on 19.

“I am very happy, I have been with the boys for two months and today they worked hard. The second half was ours and we played as planned. Gradually they are getting it right. If we continue this way we will get somewhere because we have been down.

“I had a point to prove to Leopards that I was with them. I went and I’m still there. They are my brothers, I have had enough of insults from them and I have beaten them so I’m happy.  AFC is home and I wish them all the best,” the exhilarated Nandwa told Citizen Digital after the match.

His opposite number, Jack Ivan Minnaert lacked strength post-match to give his customary lengthy interview when asked what went wrong after a sixth game without a win.

“There is much I can say but I prefer to keep it to myself for now,” the frustrated Belgian muttered with his team -that led the KPL with four games gone- continues its meltdown as it slides out of the top ten.

Aswani, Ingwe’s skipper, conceded his team is under pressure from different quarters especially the fans following its win-less streak. The Den is in turmoil with reported in-fighting that was sparked by Minnaert declaration of a garage sale in the June transfer window last month.

As many as 13 players will be forced to seek pastures anew in the cull in a decision that has set the coach against ‘dark forces’ in the club that are seeking to retain or bring their ‘kin’ to the team as rumours of player sabotage against the Belgian persist.

“I didn’t celebrate my goal so as not to convey any message against my former club. I was sending a message to my coach that we are with him despite the pressure he’s being subjected to. We had our chances in the first half that we lost and that way we gave the match away.

“It is painful to lose these points, by now we should have been somewhere,” remarked the former Bandari striker who was Thika’s star-man two seasons ago.

The loss drops the 12-times champions to eighth on log while Thika leapt to 13th, with only a match to go to the midseason break.

The match started on high for Leopards with the early-season pace-setters looking comfortable on the ball and it almost paid off in the ninth when Clifton Miheso’s free-kick was headed in by Aswani but the goal was ruled offside.

Leopards pressed more, and three minutes later, the former Thika forward notched the opener after good build up play from Victor Omune and Simon Abuko by looping the ball past on rushing keeper Emase.

Thika fought back levelled matters 11 minutes later with the next goal of the match. Shami Kibwana crossed the ball to Mwanje, who made no mistake hammering home past keeper Lucas Indeche who was also playing at his former stomping ground.

Minnaert, who had executed three changes to the squad that started last weekend, was unlucky to lose hardworking attacking midfielder Andrew Tololwa to injury just before the half-hour mark, forcing him to introduce Hedmod Mauda.

The teams went in 1-1 at the break after an opening stanza Ingwe boasted of more chances and procession.

Nandwa’s side were more aggressive in the second and Mukangala who was one of the players embroiled in the national under-20 age cheating scandal clinched the points for Thika late on in the 83rd.

Mukangala beat Indeche from close range when he punished defensive blunders by Ramadhan Yakubu and Eugine Ambulwa who allowed the ball to bounce between them in confusion.

Thika’s keeper Emase, was forced out with an injury, forcing a swap with the regular Ugandan Hamza Muonge in the mid second half.

Substitute Salim Mzee almost made it 3-1 for Thika hitting the woodwork with Indeche well beaten as Thika staged s strong finish against their deflated opponents.

Not even late substitute striker Alfred Wekesa could redeem Ingwe’s fortunes, as the dairy men held on.