Record Kenyan champions Gor Mahia launched their pursuit for elusive CAF Champions League silverware with a slim 1-0 victory over fancied Malawian club Nyasa Big Bullets in chilling temperatures at Kasarani Stadium last evening.
Substitute Bernard Ondiek tucked away the sole goal in the third minute of extra time after a frustrating and dour display from Gor.
The victory was preceded by gloom as midfield wizard and fan favourite Francis Kahata refused to play for Gor in a bid to force a move away to Algerian giants USM Alger or Constantine who are interested in his signature.
Playing in the Champions League would scupper his move to either of Carthage teams that equally crave the Holy Grail of African club soccer, and view his artistry a necessity to their pursuit.
But the transfer shenanigans were soon forgotten by throngs of K’Ogalo fans braving the biting Kasarani cold as new signing Erisa Ssekisambu and Rwandan forward Jacques Tuyisenge combined to blow away Nyasa Big Bullets in style.
On a big night of audition for the vacant head coach seat at the club, stand-in tactician, Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno, made a bold move by dropping experienced goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch for the brave and enterprising Fredrick Odhiambo. Zico also threw new signings Shafik Batambuze, Kenneth Muguna and Erisa Ssekisambu right into the fray.
K’Ogalo, however, turned in perhaps the most lethargic display in 2018 during the first half, highlighted by Tuyisenge’s substitution because of an injury and goalkeeper Odhiambo’s mistake that almost gifted the visitors a goal.
The Malawians looked sharper than Gor whose fearsome front four failed to create chances. Gor enjoyed height advantage over Nyasa and carved their best scoring opportunity from a set piece late in the half. Batambuze floated a cross in the box which Nyasa’s diminutive players made a mess of leaving their goalkeeper to scramble for the ball with Gor’s Samuel Onyango who had replaced Tuyisenge.
The hosts showed greater hunger in the second half and had a goal chalked out for offside. Onyango was adjudged to be behind the Bullets defence when he guided Batambuze’s delivery from set piece into goal.
Ensuing disjointed play from Gor Mahia rendered their attacks impotent and the groomed opponents did their best to run the clock down with injuries.
Muguna hobbled off 12 minutes to full-time and was replaced by Ondiek. Gor had the ball in the net for the second time but George Odhiambo grazed the ball with his hand and the goal was rightly disallowed.
Nyasa Big Bullets adopted more time wasting tactics hoping to hold on for a draw away before falling to Ondiek’s sucker punch.