James Magayi @magayijim
AFC Leopards’ sojourn in the CAF Confederations Cup ended at the preliminary stage yesterday following their scoreless draw with Madagascan opponents FOSA Juniors at Mahajanga’s Stade Rabemananjara. The Kenyan giants recorded an aggregate score of 1-1 over both legs but were bundled out due to FOSA Juniors’ away goal scored 11 days ago at Kakamega’s Buhkungu Stadium during the first leg tie.
Leopards effectively lost the tie at home. Ingwe flew to the Indian Ocean island nation needing a win or a high scoring draw to progress to Round One of the CAF Confederations Cup having committed a costly error of conceding at home in a competition that gives away goals great significance.
The task to overturn FOSA Junior’s advantage was a huge for a young and largely inexperienced Ingwe squad but despite predictably exiting the competition, they walked off heads high having not lost over both legs and proud to have kept a clean sheet away from home.
Their tactics may have cost them a first round appearance but credit to the technical bench for crafting a solid team. Despite receiving sharp criticism over his choice of players during their home draw with the Malagasy minnows, Leopards coach Robert Matano rung five changes to the side that started at Bukhungu.
Goalkeeper Jairus Adira got the nod ahead of Gabriel Andika between the sticks as Michael Kibwage, preferred over Robinson Kamura, partnered skipper Duncan Otieno at the heart of defence. Otieno, a natural midfielder has seemingly been converted to a centre-half by Matano.
Of Matano’s five changes in Madagascar, the most perplexing was Yusuf Mainge, Leopards’ goal scorer in the first leg who was dropped for the fit-again Dennis Sikhayi at right back. Unheralded Isaac Oduro retained his post at left back.
The defensive changes paid off as Ingwe, who were on the back foot most of the game, fended off a deluge of FOSA Juniors attacks without conceding. Leopards’ forward forays were limited to just a few minutes’ play in their hosts’ half.