We will fight for our pride, Matano says ahead of derby

By alex wafula
Aug 25, 2017
  • Mercelas Ingotsi and Alexis Kitenge are some of the players Robert Matano will bank on in the Derby. (Photo by Alex Wafula) celebrates goals Arena

  • Meddie Kagere has been in a good form for Gor Mahia. (SNA. File Photo)

  • Robert Matano has a talismanic touch which will come in handy in the derby against Gor Mahia on Sunday. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Robert Matano, the AFC Leopards coach has cautioned Gor Mahia they should not expect an easy ride when the two sides meet on Sunday for the Mashemeji Derby, the signature fixture in the Kenyan Premier League calendar.

K’Ogalo has beaten AFC Leopards with identical 3-0 score-lines already this season.

The first victory was in a league fixture and the second was in the final of the Super Cup in Dar es Salaam Tanzania.

But Matano who had not taken over during the two losses stated it will not be business as usual.

“They (Gor) are on top right now but with the derby you never know. We also to win and we will put up a hard fight. We will not give up or surrender while thinking of what happened last time. We have to play to win,” Matano told Sports News Arena.

Ingwe were completely outplayed by their arch rivals in the first leg especially in midfield when the pairing of Kenneth Muguna and Ernest Wendo completely shadowed down their opponents.

But, Matano who says he has instilled a hard working nature since taking over wants them to show a different kind of hunger.

“It is a huge game. We want to go out there and fight for our names and redeem our image,” added the tactician.

His opposite number Dylan Kerr looks absolutely calm ahead of the tie. He says the pressure will be on them and not ‘mid-table’ AFC Leopards.

“They have absolutely nothing to lose because they are mid table but I respect them because it’s a local derby. I know what it’s all about and we have to make sure we have the focus for the game to win and stay top of the league,” the British coach said.

Just like Matano, this will be his first derby. He has however been involved in a bigger East African derby when he coached Simba SC. That time, his side lost 2-0 to their arch rivals Yanga.

Electric atmosphere

The tactician says he expects an electric atmosphere and insists his side will want to keep their perfect run on top of picking the bragging rights.

“I know my twitter is going to be absolutely mental with fans telling me to beat AFC Leopards by three or four goals,” Kerr joked.

Despite facing the ‘mid table’ side, he has asked his players to be cautious especially with their opponents having won back to back matches.

“I watched them against Wazito and I like their energy. They have a young team and one thing you can expect is energy and enthusiasm,” he said.

Kerr is unbeaten in the league since taking charge of the team, winning five straight games and opening up a six point gap at the top. He wants his side to maintain the same tempo.

Learning from the first leg, AFC Leopards’ biggest bet to contain Gor Mahia is by packing the midfield. Duncan Otieno missed the midweek tie against Tusker FC but should be back for the important game on Sunday.

A combination of Otieno, Whyvonne Isuza and probably Musa Mudde might put up a compact shield to stop the fluid Gor side.

Alexis Kitenge has been impressive in attack for AFC Leopards despite the fact that the goals haven’t come as smoothly. He is expected to provide the biggest threat upfront for Ingwe.

Meanwhile, Dennis Sikhayi who missed the first leg has done well as a temporary left back despite being a right footed defender. The former Western Stima man has been thrown into the left side of defense to cover up for the injured Marcus Abwao.

Gor Mahia’s biggest strength heading into this game will be their compact midfield. Ernest Wendo has been in imperious form this season, conducting his defensive midfield duties with absolute finesse.

Add on the football brain that is Kenneth Muguna and K’Ogalo have a complete armory. Godfrey Walusimbi and Karim Nizigiyimana plying both fullback positions have unlocked defenses with their pinpoint crossing. The two are expected to play an even bigger role on Sunday.

Over the last 18 league matches, Gor carries a slight head to head advantage having won nine while AFC Leopards has won five. The green side of the Shemeji divide has scored more, hitting the back of the net 26 times against AFC Leopards’ 18.

Sofapaka v Posta rangers

Meanwhile, the other big match this weekend will involve the second and third placed sides, Sofapaka and Posta Rangers at the Narok Stadium.

While Sofapaka come into the fixture off a healthy 3-1 win over Nzoia Sugar, Posta Rangers lost 1-0 to leaders Gor.

Sammy Omollo, the Posta Rangers head coach admitted that the loss dampened their title hopes, but reckons they will fight to get back on track. They are nine points behind the leaders who have a game at hand.

“Before that game the fate of winning the league was in our hands, but now, it isn’t. But we have to fight and see what happens. It is tough against Sofapaka because they are on a roll now and their confidence is definitely higher,” Omollo conceded.

Sofapaka has won four straight matches and coach Sam Ssimbwa is beaming in confidence that they are on track to get better results. He however says they ‘are not interested in winning the title’.

“We can’t talk about winning. We are not favorites. Ours is to play and win our games. If at the end of the season we win, then well and good,” Ssimbwa noted.

Meanwhile, defending champions Tusker FC who lost 1-0 to AFC Leopards in midweek will travel to Mumias where they will take on Kakamega Homeboyz.

With one win in their last five games, Tusker’s title retention hopes have virtually tumbled. But despite sitting 11 points behind the leaders, coach George Nsimbe is not losing hope that they can still resuscitate their dying hopes.

“It is a marathon and we don’t know what will happen in the coming games. We just have to play and win,” the Ugandan coach noted.

KPL weekend fixtures (All games kick off at 3 p.m.)

Saturday: Muhoroni v Chemelil Sugar (Muhoroni), Nakumatt v Nzoia Sugar (Ruaraka), Sofapaka v Posta Rangers (Narok Stadium).

Sunday: Gor Mahia v AFC Leopards (Nyayo Stadium), Bandari v Mathare United (Mbaraki Complex, Mombasa), Kakamega Homeboyz v Tusker FC (Mumias Complex), Sony Sugar v Kariobangi Sharks (Awendo), Zoo Kericho v Western Stima (Kericho Green Stadium).