Ingotsi, Isuza score to hand Ingwe win in first pre-season game
Leopards unlikely to take ground after Hall described it as ‘poor and tough’
Another friendly for home side likely in coming weeks
AFC Leopards registered a 3-0 win in their first pre-season match, beating Embu Select in a match played at the refurbished Moi Stadium Embu Saturday afternoon. A 12th minute opener from Yvonne Isuza and a brace from Mariselas ‘Ádebayor’ Ingotsi (24th and 37th minute) were enough to see off the Salim Ali coached side in front of around 2,000 home fans.
The match began as a largely even tussle; it would have been difficult to differentiate the pro side from the home side at first glance. However, as the game settled into the first quarter hour, the Cats began to show their claws and why they are unlikely to fight the relegation battle again in the coming season. A long ball from the Leopards half went over the first defender to find a lurking Isuza. The new entrant from Mathare had a heavy first touch, but poor communication between Embu defender Habib Otieno and keeper Julius Odanga allowed him to slot with ease and put his side in the lead.
The contest took a turn from that point, Embu ceding both dominance and flair. Allan Kateregga took charge of the orchestra in midfield, running all over the place as the home side showed an early drop in energy levels. A 24th minute corner found Ingotsi loosely marked in the box, and the 23 year old rose highest to head home. He was back again to round up the scoring in the 37th, with a pwerful shot from the edge of the box that Odanga could not keep out despite getting a hand to.
Passionate home crowd
The home crowd was excited to have such a highly profile match on their ground, and were ever behind the home team even after the match ended as a contest. Around 1000 fans watched the game from the stands, with an almost similar number catching the action from different vantage points outside the perimeter wall; probably finding little value in parting with the Ksh. 100 charged at the gate. They kept singing and cheering, with thunderous chants every time the strong Sean Opwora made a touch in midfield.
Nicodemus Omasete was also giving Joshua Mawira a torrid time down Ingwe’s right flank; another cause for crowd cheers.
What they said after the match:
Embu Select coach Salim Ali:
I really would like to congratulate my boys for the performance they put in. We have only been together for two days, and that includes trial day. 3-0 is a decent scoreline thus. If we could get more time to train together, I’m sure we could give top tier teams a true challenge.
AFC coach Stewart Hall:
Feels great to win our first pre-season match. In pre-seaoson, it is not really about winning, but rather seeing whether players are adopting what you are telling them, and having the group gel. We did well in some areas, in others not so well. Our levels went so low in the second half; we were slow and mispassed the ball. We have to work on that.
Congrats to the home team; they really made us work for it. It would have been easy for them to give up when we scored, but thy never did. And the crowd, with the team from start to end. Fantastic.
It was a great match, good discipline from both sides. Leopards got two yellow cards against zero for Embu, but it was more about being passionate rather than indisciplined- Mustafa J.M, CR
The home side need to adopt a style of their own, in the first half they played AFC’s game and they came out second best. – Dennis Mwalim, AR 1
What the home side needs ia a game changer, a man who can come in and bring impact when the game is tough.- Paul Ngige, AR 2
There is still a lot to be done on the stadium. The perimeter needs to be reinforced so fans have to come inside to watch games. Also, as we try to mobilise fans to attend, these first matches, more so friendlies, should be free. – David Mwaniki, Fourth official
AFC will be in Nyeri County for their second friendly on Sunday, where they play Tetú combined at Tetú Stadium as they prepare for the February 17 league kick off.
Reports indicate Ushuru got wind of the Embu Select side’s quality, and might be angling for a friendly in the next few days.
The Big Question: Will Leopards be playing in Embu this season?
Probably not. I wouldn’t bet on it.
First off, AFC’s home ground is Nyayo, they are just seeking a second home for some matches. They are trying to cut the cost of travelling to Mumias (around 500k), but will still play one match there.
Stewart Hall mentioned that the ground was ‘poor and tough’ and although he admitted that most pitches need rain, he didn’t seem amazed by a pitch that had potholes filled with soil on the eve of the match.
Also, the pitch still lacks an inner perimeter fence, which is necessary to restrict fans from entering the pitch. That could be done in the next few days, but keep in mind the stadium has been closed for close to five years, and yet…
It would need an extra push for that to happen, and I don’t see where that push will come from. I’d say no Leopards in Embu for the coming season, sorry. But it’s election year, the County government could just surprise me- us.
I’d be glad!