By Robin Toskin
AFC Leopards have enjoyed success over Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) over six previous meetings with the last one at City Stadium, the same venue as today holding precious memories for eccentric coach Robert Matano.
AFC Leopards appeared dead and buried on July 25 last year, trailing 3-1 up until the 73rd minute, the felines roused from slumber to claw back to a 4-3 victory— achieved with the last kick of the ball.
It was to be one of scintillating matches of the season as Demonde Selenga struck one of the fastest hat-tricks in local football and Nigerian Harry Gentle smashed home a free-kick to cap a memorable comeback.
After their 1-0 defeat to Western Stima last week Matano said the players have learnt their mistakes and are ready for the bankers’ challenge.
"The good thing about this team is its fighting spirit. We have always found ourselves in difficult situations, coming off a defeat, but we manage to bounce back," Matano said pointing at their victory over KCB last year and even a harder one against Gor Mahia way back in 1986 at the same venue.
Gor Mahia were leading 2-0 with ten minutes left via Sammy Onyango "Jogoo" and George "Nyangi" Odembo’s strikes, but Dan Musuku struck a brace and Patrick Shim hit the winner.
"That spirit lives on. And on Sunday we will apply ourselves until the final whistle," Matano said.
It is unlikely though it would be smooth sailing against Leonard Saleh’s men who were heartbroken in their 1-0 loss to Gor Mahia a week ago.
KCB, who had lost only once, 1-0 at Western Stima, before that game, were resolute, but cracked under intense Gor pressure as Tony Onyango slipped the ball wide to the right for the unmarked Solomon Nasio to unlock the banker’s vault.
Saleh said it is unlikely the same scenario would be replayed.
"It was a painful experience losing that game. We are mature enough now and we would not want a repetition of the same thing. I believe we have taken every precaution to approach this match with a positive mind," Saleh said.
KCB will be without grieving attacking midfielder Job Omuse, who lost a child.
Daniel Waweru, who scored against Leopards before hobbling off after a collision with goalkeeper Lawrence Webo in the defeat, is three months away from action following a knee operation since the injury.