Factors that catapulted Gor Mahia to a record title
Gor Mahia celebrated clinching a record 16th Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title on Saturday after their 1-0 win over Ulinzi Stars saw them build an unassailable 18-point lead at the summit of the log.
It marked the first piece of silverware for head coach, British Dylan Kerr, having arrived at K’Ogalo just four months ago.
The Briton has helped transform Gor into a smooth rolling machine and, in truth; it is hard to remember when the men in green have not been top of the pile.
On the surface of it, Gor’s unrivalled success had been built on a blend of defensive solidity and attacking flair. But beneath the flair of the beautiful game, beneath the aura tantalizing football, beneath the gravity of a success starved coach, beneath it all… lies the aura of respectability.
Citizen Digital looks at the key ingredients that defined a momentous season for the Green Army; winning four league titles in five years.
Kerr’s insatiable desire for perfection
Between July 30 and August 2 as the KPL entered its second leg, Gor won back -to -back matches against Nakumatt FC as they tightened their grip of the top spot but Kerr had no kind words for his charges in his post-match interviews.
The Briton particularly took a swipe at his forwards for spurning several chances and to his defence both wins had been scrappy.
“It is frustrating because we are still wasteful in the final third. We lack the technique and there is also lack of understanding with players on the runs especially in the box,” Kerr noted.
Notably, the tactician had also replaced Boniface Oluoch for Peter Odhiambo in between the sticks with the latter going on to impress, keeping consecutive clean sheets against Nakumatt and Muhoroni Youth in his first three starts under Kerr.
It took months before the former Simba SC coach was truly satisfied by the quality in his side. When Gor beat Tusker 2-0 at the Kericho Green Stadium in September, Kerr was glowing.
“They’re remarkable these players. Credit to them for the hard work they put in training and for adopting into my philosophy,” he said.
At the time, the title was deservedly already within touching distance. It is no doubt his unquenchable thirst for the gong and eye for detail rubbed onto the players leading to them being crowned the best of the best for an unprecedented 16th time.
The Rwandan connection
No one in the league boasts a potent attack force than Gor. Their front two, Meddie Kagere and Jacques Tuyisenge have scored more goals (23) combined than AFC Leopards, Chemelil Sugar, Sony Sugar, Thika United and Muhoroni Youth FC have managed on their own.
They also account for half of Gor Mahia’s tally of league goals for the season thus far.
Looking at the significance of their goals brings a bigger picture into perspective with the two scoring 14 match-winning goals meaning they have helped earn 28 points for the record champions.
Each has also rescued Gor from losing positions to force a draw and earn a point.
Kagere alone, who returned to the club last year in June, has scored a league-high 9 match-winning goals including his latest strike against Ulinzi that won Gor the title. This is contrary to last year when they both struggled to find their scoring boots .Little wonder the on-demand Tuyisenge draws the fattest cheque at Sh 200,000 a month.
Weakness of rivals – Making hay
Gor’s unparalleled dominance coincided with failings elsewhere. Sofapaka were easily the most dogged pursuers but the Batoto ba Mungu failed to overhaul the champions with their more traditional rivals – Tusker FC, AFC Leopards and Ulinzi – all falling short of mounting any sort of challenge.
For deposed champions Tusker, losing their league and Cup double winning coach Paul Nkata might have broken their momentum and have struggled to adapt to the ways of his replacement, fellow Ugandan George ‘Best’ Nsimbe who has also been asked to step aside.
Ulinzi who parted ways with head coach Robert ‘The Lion’ Matano are yet to find their stride back while Leopards have endured yet another spectacular failure in the league having finished 13th last term. This term too they failed to show their spots in the league as much as they shone in the domestic knockout competition bagging the GOtv-Shield.
Posta Rangers and newcomers Kariobangi Sharks were both considered title contenders in the formative stages of the competition but were blown by the way side as the campaign wore on.
Dormant players reborn
The arrival of Kerr coincided with the spectacular revivals of George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo, the league’s Most Vital Player in 2010 and Francis Kahata – both of whom have been at the heart of Gor’s thriving midfield.
Under Kerr, Odhiambo rediscovered the brilliance that saw him become one of Kenya’s hot football prospects back then landing him a professional contract at Danish side Randers FC. He is one of only three players that have managed at least five goals and five assists this season (five goals, six assists).
His form has not gone unnoticed and was recalled to the national team for the first time since 2015 this year.
Kahata has also enjoyed a sensational season with his ability to pick out his team mates with the right passes making him among the permanent features in Kerr’s starting lineup
Consistency and defensive solidity
Gor performed consistently, with a starting XI which was usually predictable. Kerr stuck to the tried and tested combinations yet he always had back-ups who were ever ready and too willing to rise to the occasion when called upon.
Besides Kerr’s backline has been the meanest this term, conceding a joint league-low 18 times. Only Kakamega Homeboyz shares a similar feat.
The paring of Musa Mohammed and Harun Shakava at centre back has been impenetrable with Godfrey Walusimbi and Wellington Ochieng excelling at full back positions.
Philemon Otieno and Ernest Wendo have also stood out as defensive steels.
Stability and Tranquility in leadership
This does not in any way mean that K’Ogalo’s hierarchy under the leadership of Ambrose Rachier was prefect or that they were Angels. On the contrary they too have cobwebs that need sprucing. But compared to perennially squabbling AFC Leopards or the disaster prone Muhoroni Youth and the ilk, Gor witnessed another season of tranquility and stable leadership giving room to the boys to concentrate on their art and the rewards have been out for all to see.
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