It’s the 53rd minute in Mumias Complex and a City Stars player handles the ball in the box to concede a penalty. The referee on the day does not hesitate and only does what he should rightfully do; point to the spot!
It’s a mixed reaction to the occurrence as at that point, City Stars had a slim 1-0 lead over hosts Vihiga United in a match day 22 National Super League (NSL) clash.
Being a penalty, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Vihiga United would score and pull level.
But as their skipper Smith Ouko stepped up to take the spot kick, the man in City Stars goal Levis Lovae Opiyo was at ease as he knew his tricks all too well for he had been at Vihiga United for a short stint towards the end of the transitional 2018/19 NSL season.
“I was at the club and I knew how their captain always took penalties. I just went to the same direction that he always placed his spot kicks and that’s how I made the save,” said Lovae
Opiyo’s penalty save guaranteed City Stars a 1-0 win as it protected Davis Agesa’s 34th minute bullet shot that ricocheted off the woodwork and into goal past a hapless Joel Bataro in goal. It came off an assist by live wire Oliver Maloba.
On the whole Lovae reckons it wasn’t a walk in the park out in Mumias;
“The game was very tough, we got some early chances and utilized them but after that the game turned out to be very tough. Vihiga United were shooting closer to the goal that gave me more work to do and after lots of pressure they got that penalty.”
What happened in Mumias wasn’t a first but a repeat for keeper Opiyo. In mid-November 2019 Opiyo saved one of two penalties awarded to Nairobi Stima at Karuturi grounds to lead Simba wa Nairobi to an important 2-1 win. The other bounced off the upright.
Opiyo’s contribution in Mumias ultimately handed him the Man of the Match accolade.
City Stars coach Sanjin Alagic had this to say; “He was focused in Mumias, was good in aerial balls and he saved a penalty. He deserved to be the MVP.”
It was the second time he was being named MVP following up on his first in mid-September 2019 as City Stars ended Bidco United’s Cinderella run into the season in Thika with a 1-0 win.