Guikan double sends Tusker crashing out of CAF CL
Tusker FC crashed out of the CAF Champions League on Sunday when a sensational late double from Ephrem Guikan gave home side AS Port Louis 2000 a 2-1 victory on the day and 3-2 win on aggregate in their pulsating preliminary round clash.
Midfielder Hashim Sempala produced a moment of magic to fire Tusker FC into the lead in the 37th minute but a defensive horror show from the Kenyans allowed Guikan to nick an equaliser in the 83rd minute before striking the winner with two minutes from full time.
Sempala was the the presumptive hero when he blasted a rocket of a shot that gave Tusker a 2-1 lead on aggregate after the sides settled for a 1-1 stalemate in the opening fixture in Nairobi a week earlier.
However, the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) titleholders suffered another monumental second half defensive collapse against the Mauritian champions who advanced to take on Sudanese heavyweights, Al Hilal Omdurman in the first round starting on the weekend of March 10 to 12.
George ‘Best’ Nsibe’s side was the more adventurous in the opening exchanges with Collins Shivachi pulling the strings in midfield as they sought to avoid a shameful exit on their return to the high table of African football for the first time since the 2013 Champions League.
Port Louis were content to hit Tusker on the break by spreading the ball quickly to the wings and after a cautious start, the game sparked to life after the 20th minute of play.
Noah Wafula sent in a teasing cross from the left where Tusker found so much joy on the day but Port Louis keeper Luther Rose easily gathered with none of his teammates pushing to attack the ball four minutes later.
The hosts almost went ahead in the 28th when their most dangerous forward Guikan turned his defender inside out on the edge of the box before firing just wide of the target with Tusker custodian David Okello who made a despairing dive well beaten.
A free-kick delivered by Humphrey Mieno when Shivachi was impeded in the 36th sparked the sequence of events that saw Tusker take the lead in sensational fashion a minute later.
Port Louis had almost conceded an own goal when two of their defenders went to clear Mieno’s floating delivery to the centre of the box resulting in a corner.
Mieno then raced to the left side flag and floated in another set piece delivery that the rocking Port Louis defence only half cleared and there appeared to be little danger when Sempala gathered the loose ball and looked up from 35 metres out.
Unchallenged, the midfielder was criminally given the freedom of the pitch to take aim and produce a moment of sheer brilliance, rifling an unstoppable shot to the top right corner that had Rose beaten all ends up to put Tusker in the driving seat.
Such was the majesty of the Simpala strike that French commentators of Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation who streamed the game live on Facebook almost went hoarse in their praise.
Sensing the keeper was there for the taking, Shivachi almost repeated the party trick barely a minute later when his finish from distance just whizzed past the crossbar with Rose once again rooted to the spot.
In the 42nd, Okello came to the rescue of Tusker when he made a breathtaking one-handed save to deny Port Louis a certain equaliser with a headed finish from a corner.
Two minutes later, the KPL champions almost had a second that would surely have killed the tie when Anthony Ekhaliani Ndolo was sprung free, yet again on the left, but blazed his finish woefully wide with only Rose to beat with the sides going for the break after three minutes were added on.
Okello was forced to intervene twice, the first from a free header directed straight at him before using his legs to send the ball out for a fruitless corner as the match clocked the hour when Port Louis stepped up their search for the equaliser when the teams changed sides.
The Mauritian giants who came from behind to force a 1-1 stalemate in the first leg in Nairobi a week earlier were then lucky not to be further behind in the 63rd when Wafula inexplicably turned the ball out of play when it seemed easier to beat Rose and put Tusker 2-1 up.
With a quarter of an hour to go, Port Louis who were growing in prominence caused panic in the Tusker box but skipper James Situma evaded a sliding challenge to collect the bubbling ball before averting danger.
The home side were finally rewarded for their pressing in the 83rd minute when Tusker went to sleep at the back to allow Guikan to tuck in the equaliser past Okello.
Two minutes from full time, Guikan once again capitalised on calamitous defending when he found space among three Tusker FC defenders to notch the winner with a header from a corner.
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