By Robin Toskin
Tusker ensured Mumias Sugar-sponsored AFC Leopards would not have a sweet start to the 2011 Kenyan Premier League campaign with 2-0 win at Nyayo Stadium.
It was left to former AFC Leopards striker Dennis Mukaisi to do an inside job, which he did with gusto, netting a brace.
The double brought to three goals the number of goals Mukaisi has scored against Leopards, the other coming in the 4-2 skinning of Ingwe last season in Mumias.
"The goals will motivate me going forward. I hope to banish the frustration of last season," Mukaisi said after the match. AFC Leopard's Abraham Cokie (right) evades a tackle from Tusker's Maurice Odipo (down) as team mate Evans Wandera watches. [PHOTO:STAFFORD ONDEGO/STANDARD
AFC Leopard's Abraham Cokie (right) evades a tackle from Tusker's Maurice Odipo (down) as team mate Evans Wandera watches. [PHOTO:STAFFORD ONDEGO/STANDARD
Leopards will be grateful for some sterling individual performance of veteran Nicholas Muyoti and goalkeeper Barnabas Tiema for keeping the score line respectable.
After Liberian Abraham Cokie lashed at the upright with a speculative 30-yard shot in the eighth minute, Leopards’ challenge fizzled, allowing Tusker exert their influence.
Mukaisi charged down on goal only to find Muyoti in resolute mind with a vital block on 28 minutes. Wearing the captain’s armband on his return to the side he led to the Moi Golden Cup at the turn of last decade, Muyoti displayed leadership quality Leopards have lacked in recent months.
But when his defence was breached, Tusker found an alert Tiema as was in the 70th minute when he kept out Fred Ojwang’s flying header from close range.
However, there was little he could do in the 65th minute when Mukaisi peeled away from Martin Imbalambala on the left flank following a quick free-kick.
Mukaisi showed composure to slide in under the advancing Tiema. It was a costly positioning of the Leopards defenders despite a stern warning in the 41st minute when the former St Anthony Kitale raced through the heart of the back four to loop the ball over Tiema, only for Imbalambala to hoof it away on the goal line.
Leopards struggled to craft a response, but Tusker needed no second invitation when Mukaisi’s cross- shot fizzed through Tiema’s near post to cap a winning start for coach Sammy Omollo.
"It is an encourage result, but I think Leopards gave a good account of themselves since we did not have an easy game," Omollo said.
Leopards’ coach Robert Bollen insisted it was not a bad performance despite his forwards Demonde Selenga and Laurent Tumba time and again coming unstuck against an organised Tusker defence.
Leopards face Gor Mahia’s conquerors Rangers FC next weekend, needing victory to keep on the boil ambitions of their faithful.