By Bismarck Mutahi
Mathare United coach Salim Ali is a happy man though not relieved. But his AFC Leopards counterpart Nick Yakhama must be thinking the world is against him, as he cannot get a winning formula.
Ali was grateful to Harambee Stars midfielder Kevin Kimani, whose lone strike in the 27th minute at the Nyayo National Stadium on Thursday night was enough to lift the Slum Boys off the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) chopping board.
"I can say I’m happy, but still not relieved as we still have some work to do in the next matches," Ali said during the post- match press conference.
On his part Yakhama said he was happy with the way his team played though they didn’t get the three points and focus was now on the next match against Sofapaka on June 29.
Both coaches went into the match needing a morale boosting win, but Ali’s cause was not helped as he had to draft 17-year-old Elvis Nandwa in his starting eleven what with the many first team players on the treatment table.
As if that was not enough, his attack was left to another youngster Jesse Were who is only playing in his first season in the pressure cooker that is the KPL.
Were was supported in attack by a holding midfielder in Kevin Omondi, with Andrew Tololwa only fit for the bench while another experienced striker Kevin Ouma could only watch from the stands alongside Simon Mburu, Jacob Keli and first choice keeper Martin Musalia.
On his part, Yakhama was boosted by the return of inspirational defender Martin Imbalambala, but did not have the opportunity to field the likes of Ugandan import Jimmy Bageya, whose move from City Stars is still in the boardroom.
It was Mathare, however, who settled faster in the match although the first chance fell to Leopard’s Silas Aluvisia in the second minute, but his indecision in the box cost him and Mathare cleared the danger.The Mathare centre backs of captain Anthony Kimani and Llyod Wahome were called into action once again in the seventh minute when goalkeeper Joseph Ruto misjudged a cross from Augustine Etemesi from Leopards left wing, but Wahome was on hand to clear the ball off the line.
Mathare, who were now bossing the midfield with youngster Nandwa outstanding in the centre alongside Dennis Nzomo got their chance to go ahead in the 13th minute only for Kevin Kimani to shootwide with only goalkeeper Barnabas Tiema to beat after being put through on goal by Omondi.Before that Aluvisia had won a corner for Leopards off the boot of Athman Buki with Emmanuel Tostao blazing his shot over the bar.
Mathare’s goal, however, arrived in the 27th minute after a move that involved Nzomo, Omondi, Innocent Mutiso and Kevin Kimani.