Kenyan champions Gor Mahia will be out to exorcise the ghosts of a pedestal fall at the hands of Tunisian giants Esperance four years ago when the two teams lock horns again in the CAF Champions League first round first leg encounter at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos today.
K’Ogalo’s faithful have yet to decipher the undignified 8-2 aggregate loss the team suffered at the hands of Esperance, nicknamed “Blood and Gold”, during the 2014 competition in which the Kenyan side went down 3-2 in the first leg in Nairobi before being massacred 5-0 in the reverse fixture in Tunis.
Yet this was the same team which Gor vanquished in 1987 in the final of the Africa Cup winners Cup to inscribe their names in the annals of history by being the first in the East and Central Africa region to clinch the coveted title.
Now, it’s pay-back time and win by a big margin over Esperance will be Gor’s main priority to make their work easier in the return match on March 17 at Stade De Rades in Tunis. A descent first leg result will be fundamental for Gor given that Esperance, just like most North African teams, are known to be ruthless at home.
The 2104 meeting between the two lends credence to this observation and coupled with the fact that Esperance bundled out Concorde of Mauritania 6-1 on aggregate enroute to the first round of 2018, odds are stacked heavily against Gor.
But Gor Chief Executive Officer Lordvick Aduda says records may count for nothing, adding that football dynamics have changed and the team is capable of eliminating Esperance.
“Physically, Gor is upbeat and tactically, the team has made tremendous strides and is capable of taking on any opponent in Africa. Esperance is not bigger than Everton and I think we can give them pound for pound,” said Aduda, in reference to the experienced English Premier League side which beat Gor narrowly in a SportPesa invitational final in Dar-es-Salaam last year.
Since Gor lost to Esperance in their second meeting, only two players midfielders Kevin Omondi and goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch, are surviving in the current squad which is an advantage of sorts since the North Africans don’t know what is up the sleeves of the team under the tutelage of Dylan Kerr.
The recovery of Jacques Tuyisenge from an injury will bring a sense of urgency and creativity in Gor’s striking besides the fact that Ivorian Ephrem Guikan who is now being regularly used after a limited game time has clicked to the satisfaction of fans. Other men Kerr will be relying on to prise open Esperance defence are Meddie Kagere and George Odhiambo “Blackberry.”