Gor swim with the Sharks to launch title bid in style
To underline their 2017 Kenyan Premier League (KPL) title credentials, record winners had literally to swim with the Sharks from Kariobangi and at the end of a pulsating encounter on Sunday, it was evident the K’Ogalo empire is determined to strike back.
Stung by losing the crown to Tusker FC last season, Gor who are eying a 16th domestic title passed the stern test provided by the sleek runner-ups from last season’s National Super League (NSL) by outclassing them 3-1 at Thika Sub-County Stadium.
Defender Haron Shakava (19) and Rwandese international Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza who netted on his debut in the 39th minute gave Gor a 2-0 cushion at the break before compatriot Jacques Tuyisenge put the game beyond their opponents in the 88th.
Beaten but not by any stretch humiliated, Sharks gave a good account of themselves and were rewarded in time added on when Martin Odong’o netted their first KPL goal against the mighty K’Ogalo that blighted what had been a great afternoon for the rocking Green Army.
Earlier at the same venue, 2008 champions, Mathare United edged a five-goal humdinger in a 3-2 victory over home side Thika United as Chemelil ran out 2-0 victors over Sony in the ‘Sugar Derby’ in Awendo.
Elsewhere, KPL new boys Zoo Kericho were caged 1-0 by 10-man Posta Rangers in their own backyard to round off Sunday’s results.
Unlike Nzoia Sugar FC who bamboozled the champions at the same venue 5-2, Jose Maria ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira and Gor simply taught Sharks a ruthless lesson in finishing to lay a marker.
Its still early doors but Gor will take some beating having managed on first evidence to cast off the goal-shyness that blighted their failed bid to win a fourth KPL title on the trot.
Gor commanded proceedings in midfield with Earnest Wendo, Mugiraneza and 2016 KPL Player of the Year and new acquisition Kenneth Muguna blunting the teeth of their opposite numbers particularly their marquee signing, Osbourne Monday in a 3-5-2 formation.
Harambee Stars trialist, Patillah Omotto also faded on the big stage in the middle of the pack with Sharks forwards Ibrahim Kitawi, Ovella Ochieng and Rodgers Ochieng starved of service upfront.
However, it was the Sharks who raced off the blocks first with former Gor winger Ibrahim Kitawi stinging the palms of Boniface Oluoch in the K’Ogalo goal in the second minute with a well struck effort that was parried out of danger.
Having returned from his loan spell at Rangers, striker Timothy Otieno who was preferred by Ze Maria ahead of Meddie Kagere saw his fine header from a Godfrey Walusimbi lofted delivery denied by Robert Mboya in the opposite goal as Gor hit back.
The league titans did not have to wait long to breach the Sharks defence and in what has been a characteristic of the first round of KPL games, Mboya was at fault for leaving his line early from a corner obliging Shakava to put his side in front from a short corner routine.
Overlapping defender Karim Nizigiyamana could have made it 2-0 on the half hour mark, when he swept to a Kenneth Muguna cross in the box only to skew his finish wide.
Mboya was beaten again when former Tanzania’s giants Azam FC midfielder Mugiraneza opened his K’Ogalo account from close range on the rebound after Mboya blocked Walusimbi’s goal-bound shot from a Tuyisenge assist.
Sharks boss William Muluya hauled off the ineffectual Michael Omondi for Sven Yida to tighten his rearguard upon the restart.
However, Gor continued their dominance and six minutes in, Otieno thought he had made it 3-0 but his strike was ruled out for handball before he took his shot.
Chasing the game, Muluya brought on striker Michael Misigo for Rodgers Omondi in the 57th and the substitute added some impetus into attack and five minutes later he was involved when, Duke Abuya had the beating of Oluoch but his finish fizzled just wide.
A goal mouth melee in Shark’s box in the 64th saw Nizigiyamana denied by Mboya who punched the ball straight to Otieno’s path, only for the Gor attacker to blast the ball wide.
Ferreira then introduced Francis Kahata and Meddie Kagere for Wendo and Otieno for the last quarter.
Kagere cut the ball back to Tuyisenge two minutes from time via a deflection that saw the forward who took long to establish himself after his record Ksh4m signing last year steer the ball in to kill off the tie.
But Odong’o had the last word a minute into added time when he expertly side-footed past Oluoch to give Sharks the consolation.
In the first game of the double-header at the same venue, George Owino notched a brace for Mathare in the 23rd and 80th minutes with Ronald Okoth (47) adding the third to propel Francis Kimanzi’s Slum Boys to a nervy opening day victory.
Christopher Orchum and Sosthenes Idah were on target for Thika.
Zoo surrendered against the 10-man Rangers who got their winner through veteran Dennis Mukaisi in the 71st three minutes after Gilbert Wesonga received his marching orders for a second yellow.
Edwin Omondi opened the scoring in the 55th before Willis Ouma put the game beyond reach from the spot in the 72nd as Chemelil trumped their sugar-belt rivals from Awendo.
Gor 3-1 Kariobangi Sharks
Sony Sugar 0-2 Chemelil Sugar
Thika United 2-3 Mathare United
Zoo Kericho 0-1 Posta Rangers
Tusker FC 2- 5 Nzoia Sugar
Bandari 1-0 Nakumatt FC
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