12 February 2018

Kenya: Mountain to Climb for AFC After Draw

Thirteen-time Kenyan champions AFC Leopards drew 1-1 with Fosa Juniors from Madagascar, severely denting the team's chances of going past the preliminary stage of the Caf Confederation Cup.

Even then, the spotlight turns on coach Robert 'The Lion' Matano who has not achieved much success since taking over the team last July.

In the 19 league matches he presided over last season, Leopards won eight, lost six and drew five. This return, by his standards, is unsatisfactory.

This season, he is yet to record victory apart from the 2-1 success against Ugandan champions KCCA in a friendly in January. Ingwe lost 1-0 to Gor in KPL Super Cup and started their league campaign with a 1-1 draw with Posta Rangers two weeks ago.

The defeats have certainly tested Matano to the limit as he tries to match the blistering pace being set by their arch rivals Gor Mahia. After Sunday's draw in Kakamega, the 54-year-old was left fuming, saying his players "had no constructive play" and "conceded a cheap equaliser."

Leopards appeared flustered against their Malagascan opponents despite winning the midfield battle.

Despite selecting four forwards in Vincent Oburu, Papa Arko, Aziz Okaka and Henry Uche, the quartet was too often isolated. And no midfielder seemed willing to gamble with a forward run, and the creative instincts of Victor Majid did not amount to much.

Ingwe now seem more disjointed as a team than they were when Matano took over.

"I'm finding it hard to get sleep, I feel we (technical bench) needs to own up and apologise to the fans," Ingwe goalkeeper trainer Mathew Ottamax said on his Facebook wall moments after the match. Matano's habit of lampooning players has resulted in a deflated squad lacking in confidence, and it showed not just on Sunday but also after a 1-0 loss to Gor in KPL Super Cup on January 28.

A furious Matano launched stinging criticism on his players, blaming them for "losing precious training in a go-slow."

Leopards went on to draw 1-1 in their league opener against Posta Rangers.

Matano has said he will effect massive changes ahead of the second leg on February 21 in Antananarivo, but if the gamble backfires then he will surely miss out on his ambition to get to the competition's group stage.


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