Forwards Paul Were and Mike Baraza scored either side of the half to seal victory for the Kenyan giants, as Taha Nuhu's penalty proved a consolationKenya Premier League (KPL) side AFC Leopards kick started preparations for the 2013 season with a convincing 2-1 win over visiting Azam FC in an entertaining contest played at the Nyayo Stadium on Saturday.
Forwards Paul Were and Mike Baraza scored either side of the half to seal victory for the Kenya giants, as Taha Nuhu's injury time penalty proved a consolation for the Tanzanian side.
Earlier, Kenyan internationals Jockins Atudo and Humphrey Mieno had both hit the post from the penalty spot denying their side an opportunity to get goals.
Newly appointed assistant coach Tom Olaba - who previously managed Tanzanian side Mtibwa Sugar - took charge of the tie for the Kenyan team, and handed debuts to Martin Musalia in goal, Anthony Kimani and Noah Abich in defence, while Patilah Omotto also earned his first cap in midfield.
Azam coach Stewart Hall meanwhile, opted to give former Tusker defender Joackins Atudo a slot in central defence, while Humphrey Mieno, who was also acquired by the Tanzanian moneybags during the close season had to settle for the bench.
Paul Were tapped in the first goal on 14 minutes, after finishing off a good move that included the impressive Omotto and Captain Martin Imbambala.
Azam responded instantly, and earned a penalty nine minutes later but the reliable Atudo's feeble shot was parried away by Musalia. Azam also had their early chances and two minutes after conceding the first goal Gaudance Mwadikimba left Eric Masika stranded in the box but blasted away with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The Kenyans continued their impressive display that kept the handful of cheering supporters on their feet into the second half, and veteran Kenyan striker Mike Baraza, who formerly turned out for Tanzanian side Yanga SC, added the second goal midway through the second half.
Azam had striker John Bocco carded for foul play, but still won a penalty but Guidance Mwaikimba, yet again, fluffed the chance.
Olaba then brought on David Seda for the off colour Victor Ochieng' as the home team sought to kill the game with the third goal, but it wasn't to be. Instead, Azam managed a consolation through Nuhu's penalty, the Tanzanian side's third spot kick of the encounter.
Hall said afterwards, "When you create so many chances and you don’t utilize them including two penalties then you should not expect to win. We were the better side only let down by poor finishing. This was mainly due to the fact that we left two of our top strikers behind.”
Leopard’s assistant coach Olaba was not a satisfied man despite the win and pointed out that his players have a long way to go before the league kicks-off. “We made some basic mistakes that we shouldn’t be doing at this level. The truth is we still have a long way to go but we will get there."
Azam take on Sofapaka at the same venue on Sunday.