By Alex Isaboke
Nairobi – It’s been a fairly solid start to the season for Kenyan Premier League titans AFC Leopards, who sit top of the league with head coach Ivan Minnaert urging his charges to maintain the tempo.
The past two seasons has been a nightmare for Leopards, who struggled to find back their feet that saw them finish seventh, but it seems it’s a new dawn for Ingwe who are on track to hunt for their 14th national title after staying unbeaten in four matches.
The biggest motivation came on Sunday when Leopards silenced arch rivals champions Gor Mahia 1-0 in the first-leg of the Mashemeji Derby to hand Minnaert a dream start after winning two out of two since joining the Den last week.
“We need to go further with this confidence and win every game. It doesn’t matter if the win will be coming in the 70th minute because the most important thing is to ensure we bag maximum points.
“I have tried to dig out pressure from the players since most of them are new and I believe having featured in the biggest match against Gor, the second derby will be easier for them but we need to improve on different things before the next match,” the Belgian tactician stated.
Minnaert has hope the class of 2016 will end the 18-year title drought, that will see them close on Gor’s record of 15 after the latter clinched a three peat with an unbeaten run last season.
“The group wants to win and the power to win is there so we need to get better every day. We are the Leopard warrior and we need to fight in every game. I’m the first warrior so I will push my players but they need to fight also since we have a fantastic squad,” Minnaert explained.
The new-look Leopards face an acid test this weekend when they welcome bogey side Chemelil Sugar on Sunday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium as the SportPesa Premier League enters the fifth round.
Ingwe have only managed to claw Chemelil once in14 Premier League meetings but having killed the giant (K’Ogalo) and end their 35 matches unbeaten run since last season, Leopards will be out to protect their winning streak and maintain the top spot.
Leopards found it difficult in the past two seasons after going broke following the termination of their shirt sponsor Mumias Sugar but now they have every reason to outshine Gor after landing a Sh45m annual sponsorship package from betting firm SportPesa.