James Magayi @magayijim
The friendly tie between Kenyan giants Gor Mahia and English Championship side Hull City lived up to its billing despite the lack of goals during regular time as both sides treated thousands of fans who thronged Kasarani Stadium to riveting football.
Staged on a hurriedly-planted grass, Gor displayed a match befitting their lofty standing in regional circles as they dominated their opponents from kick-off to full-time.
Their 4-3 loss on post-match penalties served an anti-climax on K’Ogalo who missed myriads of chances that could have settled the tie earlier.
Football fans filled the 60,000-seater stadium for the first time since 1997 when Harambee Stars hosted Super Eagles of Nigeria and excess fans gathered outside the Chinese built amphitheater to follow events from a mobile screen mounted in anticipation of such numbers.
Coaches Dylan Kerr of Gor and his Hull counterpart Nigel Adkins fielded their strongest squads on the day, the former preferring Ivorian Ephrem Guikan over Meddie Kagere to lead the K’Ogalo lines. The decision was made with an eye on Wednesday’s CAF Confederation Cup tie against USM Alger.
Guikan brought fans to their feet early in the game with a snap shot, attempted a bicycle kick midway through the first half and dithered slightly allowing Hull defenders to clear.
The midfield combination of Humphrey Mieno and Francis Kahata immensely impressed, the former, engineering K’Ogalo attacks with visionary passes while the later grazed top of the cross bar with a clever free kick after indefatigable Jacques Tuyisenge was fouled outside the box in the second half.
Gor defenders also shackled a potent forward line spearheaded by Fraiser Campbell who was not accorded the sight of Boniface Oluoch’s goal in his 75 minutes of action. Altogether, Gor confined their opponents to no shots on target the entire game, limiting their chances to bear minimum.
Kerr made five changes in the second half, throwing Samuel Onyango, Kevin Omondi, Cercidy Okeyo, Wesley Onguso, Meddie Kagere and Lawrence Juma into the fray another move with midweek continental clash in mind. Kagere made the most impact shortly after entering the pitch to a standing ovation.
He latched on to a cheeky flick by the ineffective Omondi in Hull penalty area, turned and unleashed a wild shot which keeper David Marshall was fortunate to palm out.
The Hull squad boasted of some internationally acclaimed names like Jon Toral and the two ex Manchester United graduates William Keane and Campbell. Gor will be proud to hold them to a draw but must improve their penalty taking skills.
Skipper Haron Shakava, Wesley Onguso, Okeyo and Omondi all missed while composed custodian Oluoch saved three spot kicks. Gor penalty scorers were Kagere, Tuyisenge and Onyango while Hull scored through Toral, William Chadwick, Robbie McKenzie and Thomas Powell.