No special player at Leopards lair, Matano warns as ‘tired’ Gor cry foul

AFC Leopards head coach Robert Matano has told his charges to compete for the  ‘open first 11’, saying competition in the newly assembled squad has forced him to give all the players a chance to prove their mettle.

In the five competitive matches Leopards has played in the 2018 season, Matano has made at least four changes in his starting teams, registering just one win, a 2-1 victory on Sunday against former employers Ulinzi Stars.

In his somewhat trial and error approach, Matano lost 1-0 Gor Mahia in the Super Cup clash at the Afraha Stadium, before drawing 1-1 against Posta Rangers in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) opener at the same venue.

Against Rangers, custodian Jairus Adira, Isaac Oduro, Marvin Omondi and goal scorer Brain Marita started, replacing Gabriel Andika, Moses Mburu, Collins Okoth and Ezekiel Odera who had started in the Super Cup duel.

Matano also rang changes in his starting-11 during the second leg of their CAF- Confederations Cup match against Madagascar’s FOSA Juniors in Rabemananjara Stadium, Madagascar, dropping Andika, Yusuf Maingi, Aziz Okaka, Henry Uche, Whyvonne Isuza and Vincent Oburu — who had all started in the first leg.

AFC Leopards SC players Robinson Kamura (L), Victor Majid (C) and Isaac Oduro reacts after their Caf Confederation Cup match against Fosa Juniors from Madagascar at Bukhungu stadium in Kakamega on February 11, 2018. The match ended 1-1. Photo/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha

Injured Ghanaian Prince Arkor was also missing in the line up too as Ingwe fought to a barren stalemate that saw them exit the Confederations Cup stage, with the trend continuing in the Ulinzi’s 2-1 win where Victor Majid, Joseph Kuria, Jaffrey Owiti and Ezekiel Odera were relegated to the bench.

Speaking to Citizen Digital after the match at the Thika Sub County Stadium, Matano defended the rotational approach saying it opens the door for cut-throat competition among the players.

“Our fans should know this is a new team, very many new faces and we have to do it this way before we can make conclusions. We have to give everyone a chance, hence the rotation,” he said.

“As for Adira and Andika (goalkeepers), both are good, so you may see either of them between the goal-posts any day. Someone asks how difficult is it to settle on one goalkeeper, but a coach is happier when both can be summoned any day and performs,” said Matano.

With four points in the KPL from two matches, Matano expects the 12-time champions to be sharper in the domestic competition after elimination from Confederations Cup.

“We now shift full focus on KPL. It is a good starting point to win in our first match after the CAF duty; we only have to build on this win.”

KPL killing Gor!

Gor mahia FC head coach Dylan Kerr reacts during their Sportpesa Premier League match against AFC Leopards SC at the Nyayo national stadium in Nairobi, Kenya on August 27, 2017. The match ended 1-1.Photo/Stafford Ondego/

Meanwhile, Gor Mahia extended their 100 percent record in the league with a 2-1 victory over hard-fighting Kariobangi Sharks, but coach Dylan Kerr complained his charges are tired.

“My guys are tired. Being the only team that has remained in CAF competitions from Kenya, the expectation on me to win is phenomenal; everyone is expecting us to win, but three matches in seven days and we have a massive tie against Esperance coming up? Come on KPL, wake up and give us a chance,” lamented Kerr.

Gor are scheduled to play Tusker FC on Wednesday, before locking horns with Bandari FC on Saturday. Three days later, they host the dreaded Esperance of Tunisia in the first leg of the Champions League second round fixture at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos.

Francis Kimanzi coached Mathare United are top of the KPL log with 10 points from four outings, one ahead of Gor while notably, the 2016 National Super League (NSL) champions Nzoia Sugar remain pointless after four rounds.