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K’Ogalo exit CAF Champions League after narrow loss to Esperance

Kenya’s representative in CAF Champions League Gor Mahia suffered Round One elimination by continental giants Esperance following a 1-0 loss in Tunis, Tunisia last evening. Esperance went through on an aggregate score of 1-0 having played a scoreless draw in Machakos a fortnight ago.

Kogalo endured the famed arab intimidation and tricks during the match but gave a good account of themselves. From fan intimidations and constantly breaking play with dubious injuries, the carthage club pulled all stops to make the CAF Champions League group stage at the expense of Gor Mahia. Badri Anis scored for Esperance in the 21st minute after a heavy torrent of attacks on Kogalo.

The Kenyan side struggled to cope with searing pace in the early exchanges but once settled gave as good as they got. Home fans sensed danger of a possible Gor Mahia comeback just before halftime and pelted the Kogalo technical bench with objects, an occurrence which saw Gor Mahia technical bench scampering into the pitch.

Only 13,000 fans were allowed into the 65,000 capacity Olympic stadium owing to past crowd troubles and the match organisers were vindicated as the 40th minute trouble could have escalated if there were more.

The Tunisian outfit, ranked 2nd on the continent returned from half-time rejuvenated and in search of a second goal to calm fears but Kogalo kept their cool, defending diligently as the two makeshift fullbacks, Onguso Arasa on the left and Joachim Oluoch on the opposite side contained the marauding Tunisians.

Gor Mahia came close to an equaliser in the 65th minute when a long ball floated upfront by Ernest Wendo fell to Meddie Kagere who was upended near the left corner flag. Francis Kahata then floated the resultant free-kick, a crisp chip which was met by a string header from Kegere but the ball flew just wide of the post.

Coach Dylan Kerr hooked of George Odhiambo in the 65th minute for Boniface Omondi to add impetus to Kogalo’s attack. Soon Kerr substituted left back Onguso for midfielder Humphrey Mieno and right back Joachim Oluoch for Samuel Onyango as Kogalo ramped up the push for an equaliser.

An aura of urgency and tension ensued after the changes and Kogalo played more in opposition half without really. Kogalo’s long balls upfront did not really yield as most of them were hoofed back but a calculated break down the left by diminutive Omondi created Gor’s best chance as indifatigable Jacques Tuyisenge got to the squared through ball but his intended pull back was took weak and well read by Esperance custodian who gathered with a full stretch dive.

Gor Mahia will consequently drop to the second tier continental club competition, Confederations Cup where they will be paired with other Champions League drop-outs to vie for group stage.

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