James Magayi @magayijim
Defending champions Gor Mahia moved to within one point of league leaders Mathare United thanks to a slim 1-0 win over debutants Wazito at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos yesterday.
Gor scooped three points but showed vivid signs of strain from juggling between the rigorous of continental football and defending their league title.
The lone goal was scored in the 74th minute by Rwandan Jacques Tuyisenge who came on from the bench to expertly steer Cercidy Okeyo’s free kick into Philip Odhiambo’s goal from six yards. Ricky Onimbo had fouled Ephrem Guikan just inside Wazito’s half to concede the set piece.
Despite the win, K’Ogalo struggled to shrug off the minnows as coach Dylan Kerr made nine changes to the squad that beat SuperSport United last Sunday.
Interestingly, only two defenders, Charles Momanyi and Joachim Oluoch, started for Gor with the other defensive positions manned by midfielders.
It was a big gamble, taken with one eye on next week’s CAF Confederation Cup return leg tie in Pretoria, South Africa as offensive midfielder Humphrey Mieno was deployed as a centre-half alongside Momanyi. Mieno’s former team-mate at Tusker Okeyo manned the left-back with the only other natural defender in the squad Oluoch posted on the right.
Wazito tactician Frank Ouna sent out talented duo of Pistone Mutamba and Joe Waithira to lead assault on K’Ogalo’s feeble backline as lanky defender Mark Odhiambo and rough tackler Dan Owino fortified the debutants’ rear.
As a result, Gor struggled to retain possession and looked vulnerable each time Wazito bombed forward. K’Ogalo missed three scoring chances in the opening half as Meddie Kagere, one of the two starters from last weekend’s Confederation Cup, struggled to hit the target.
Wazito threatened much without really troubling Shaban Odhonji in Gor’s goal. After a drab opening half, Gor returned with urgency and purpose, pinning the minnows deep into their own half as Kagere, Samuel Onyango and Guikan pushed for a goal.
Onyango thought he had the opener at the hour-mark when his glancing header came off Odhiambo’s flailing leg and the former Ulinzi man was denied with the keeper well beaten.
On the other side, Ibrahim Mao afflicted the makeshift K’Ogalo defence with dangerous incisive runs that opened spaces for Mutamba but apparent inexperience upfront cost Wazito.