James Magayi @magayijim
Thirty-one-year-old goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch rose from a calamitous spell to heroic status in Blantyre, Malawi as Gor Mahia emerged shoot-out victors over Nyasa Big Bullets and booked a berth in the first tround of CAF Champions League yesterday.
Oluoch was mostly at fault when Gor conceded from a long-range shot but the veteran sufficiently atoned for his ‘sins’ by smothering an 87th minute penalty that would have sent K’Ogalo packing.
He then saved another spot kick during the post-match shoot out in which K’Ogalo won 4-3. Substitutes Boniface Omondi and Bernard Ondiek neatly scored same as skipper Harun Shakava and Humphrey Mieno.
Gor travelled to the Kamuzu stadium with a slim 1-0 lead and needed to avoid defeat to see out the two-leg tie. They held on firmly at the beginning and rode out the first half the better team. The course of the match was, however, altered drastically until the 55th minute when the hosts scored.
So timid were the hosts that they only mustered one shot on target the entire first half, a feeble long-range strike that Oluoch easily gathered.
At the other end, K’Ogalo were cautious but threatening and earned three corners in the opening 15 minutes that unfortunately bore no fruit. Gor still curved out the best chances in the early exchanges with George Odhiambo and a lively Mustafa Francis constantly troubling Nyasa Big bullets.
Perhaps their best chance fell to skipper Shakava who toed Shafiq Batambuze’s free kick in Big Bullets box and the ball curved towards goal only to graze the upright and bounce out. Gor finished the half looking better but the hosts returned with renewed vigour.
K’Ogalo were stirred from their comfort 10 minutes into the second half with a long-range volley from Nyasa danger man Chiukepo Msowoya. The forward gathered well a high ball nodded back to him before unleashing a screamer that beat Boniface Oluoch from nearly 30 yards.
Gor went close to getting an equaliser in the 69th minute when Ugandan Erisa Ssekisambu met Samuel Onyango’s cross at the near post and connected with it but the ball flew just over the bar. The Ugandan was withdrawn one minute later to be replaced by sole goal scorer in Nairobi Ondiek.
A controversial penalty awarded to the hosts in the 85th minute drew a protracted protest from Gor players but the referee was adamant and it took Oluoch’s cool head to keep K’Ogalo in the game.