Leopards plot Singida attack: Tanzanian side stands in way of Mashemeji derby

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Tuesday, June 5th 2018 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
AFC Leopards Coach Roldofo Zapata with his goalkeeper Ezekiel Owade during the Mashemeji derby match at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on May 1,2018.Photo:Kipsang Joseph/Standard

Coach Zapata bemoans captain Otieno’s absence as Tanzanians come calling.

AFC Leopards coach Rodolfo Zapata insists he is feeling no pressure to win today’s (3pm)  knock-out match of the SportPesa Super Cup against the unpredictable Tanzania’s side Singida United at Afraha Stadium. 

Though Leopards are in a pressure-packed situation after their two Kenyan rivals, champions Gor Mahia and Kakamega sailed through to the semifinals on Monday, the Argentine maintains that the team is on an even keel. 

While the record Kenyan champions Gor, whom Leopards will meet on Thursday, if they beat Singida today, began their title defence with a convincing 3-0 victory over Zanzibar’s Jeshi La Kujenga Uchumi, Kakamega stunned Tanzanian giants Yanga 3-1. 

Former Zanzibar coach Themed Morocco will be keen to make a winning debut as Singida boss after succeeding Hans van Pluijm, who was in charge of the team in Saturday’s 3-2 domestic Cup final defeat to Mtibwa Sugar. 

But coming off a 2-0 win against Thika United in the local league followed by a 2-1 SportPesa Shield round of 64 victory over Shabana, Zapata, who replaced Dennis Kitambi as Leopards head coach last month, says there is no pressure to match Gor Mahia and Kakamega’s performance. 

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“This is an international competition and it is totally different from the domestic league and cups. I am happy with the players I have and we are ready to face them. The boys have responded well to my coaching during this period and I am glad we are still unbeaten since I took over the team,” Zapata told The Standard Sports. 

“No!No! There is no pressure for me , maybe a  little pressure on the young players. For me, this is a party I am going to enjoy and I’m happy to be part of this.”

But the former Gaborone United coach was quick to bemoan the absence of captain Duncan Otieno and defender Michael Kibwage, who are away in India on international duty with Harambee Stars. Dependable striker Ezekiel Odera is also likely miss with an injury.

“It is not the same, especially in Duncan’s case. He is the captain and a very key player for us. Odera is doubtful after suffering injury against Shabana.”