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Date: 21 March 2019

  Eastern African - Soccer

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Leopards-Tursker tittle race on

[Posted 07 Sep 2012]
[By Charles Malingha]
Leopards-Tursker tittle race on

This script is so thick with plots you would not cut it with a surgeon’s scalpel. League champions Tusker versus league leaders AFC Leopards, Friday at Nyayo Stadium from 7 pm.

Will this be the day that Leopards reaffirm their championship credentials against so formidable an opposition, or will the defending champions announce in emphatic fashion they are not ready yet to surrender the title?

Leopards lead the table with 44 points, four ahead of Tusker, who have a game in hand, and a dangerously rejuvenated Gor Mahia, who have ignited a fascinating title race with their meteoric charge.

Gor, after a lackluster start to the season, have stormed up the table hierarchy, inspired by the Croation magic of Zdravko Lugorusic and never-say-die hearts of the Green Army, to become serious contenders for the cup.

They beat former champions and title aspirants Ulinzi Stars 1-0 on Wednesday to show they did not just have wish but wherewithal to claim Kenya’s biggest club football crown.

AFC and Tusker will certainly give this some thought but not Friday.

Both coaches, Jan Koops of Leopards and Robert Matano of Tusker, perfunctorily talked about how this match was just like any other.

Yeah, right. Pressed further the real deal came out.

"We must beat Tusker to get further ahead of them. That is very important for us. The gap must be maintained," Koop said.

"It is an important match. We are the defending champions and have every intention of fighting to remain so," Matano, just two weeks old on the job said.

For the experienced Matano this could also be a revenge mission on his old club Leopards who kicked him out like a dog last season ostensibly over poor performance.

Matano is too civil to admit this offering: "I have no ill feelings towards Leopards. I just want to do the job for Tusker. My motivation and that of the team is to win the league."

23–match unbeaten run

There is much more though. Tusker suckered AFC Leopards 2-0 in Mombasa in their first leg match on April 21 when the big cats were riding roughshod on the league with a wonderful 23–match unbeaten run stretching back to last season.

Leopards will certainly want to get back at the brewers.

The big cats are back at full strength following the return to fitness of their backline mainstay Jonas Nahimana and Eric Masika and influential midfielder Bernard Mangoli.

Koop has the option of fielding his productive forward line of internationals Allan Wanga and Mike Baraza, with 11 league goals between them, and former Tusker front runner Paul Were, who will relish a go at his old mates.

Matano also has all his squad available to him and it will be interesting to see whom he picks for his second league game with Tusker.


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