No room for error as Gor smell Ksh. 54 million cash prize
- Kenya's glamour club Gor Mahia are on the verge of sealing a CAF Champions League group stage spot, a milestone none of the current players of the record Kenyan champions has seen.
- Gor have a week to prepare for the Nigerian side, with Oktay smelling more glory in the continental stage than his predecessor Dylan Kerr, who dropped to the second tier CAF Cup at a similar stage.
Kenya’s glamour club Gor Mahia are on the verge of sealing a CAF Champions League group stage spot, a milestone none of the current players of the record Kenyan champions has seen.
Group stage where since the implementation of the new format of the Champions League by the CAF Competitions Committee, clubs featuring are guaranteed to pocket a whopping Ksh.54m.
By muzzling Nigeria’s Lobi Stars 3-1 on Sunday in the first leg of the first round clash, K’Ogalo need to avoid a defeat of more that a goal to secure the ticket to the so lucrative bracket.
Last season, Gor Mahia missed by a whisker, losing 1-0 away to eventual champions Esperance of Tunisia, who had battled to a barren draw in Nairobi. It is that memory that creates a sense of caution among the players and their new coach Hassan Oktay, ahead of the rematch in Nigeria.
“We have to give it to our players, they gave their best and did what is essentially needed in such a competition, winning at home. We cannot say it is deal done but we are better placed. We know from a first hand experience the kind of opponent we are facing, so our preparation for the second leg should be easier,” noted Oktay.
Though he was not part of the technical bench last season, the members who travelled to Tunis including his assistant Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno recall the harsh treatment they were subjected to orchestrating the bitter exit.
Important to note, the last time a Kenyan delegation toured Nigeria for a CAF match, the hosts ensured nothing was flowing smoothly for the visitors, a culture that has been reported oftenly.
In 2013, it was Harambee Stars during African Cup of Nations qualifiers in Calabar, where the team had to train in a village-like school playground ahead of their clash, not mentioning a telling cold reception by the Nigerian officials on arrival.
Though they battled to a 1-1 draw thanks to a spectacular goal by Francis Kahata, Stars came back regretting the unsporting behavior of the Nigerians.
Recently, Team Kenya to the Athletics Championship in Asaba – Nigeria, spent a night in the airport without a word from their hosts, events that a keen learner through experience would summurise the forthcoming Gor sojourn to the West African country as a difficult one.
Samuel Onyango, the brace hero in the first encounter told: “Beating them 3-1 here (Nairobi) does not mean they are an easy side. That is a thought we would like to avoid. They will be trying to hit us hard and if we can score a goal and defend well, we will be better placed. In these competitions what you do at home matters a lot.”
While Gor appeared to terrorize Lobi with ease in the first stanza of the match, the second one was a tricky affair. All goals were scored in the first half, which Onyango opines was a caution ahead of the decisive rematch.
“We played our game in the first half, in which we could have scored more. In the second we somehow sunk to their game and allowed them some comfort they should not have enjoyed. We need to be alert next time,” offered the former Ulinzi Stars man.
Oktay did not get value of his substitutes, George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo who came on for Onyango making no impact as rusty Kenneth Muguna struggled to be stamp presence on the pitch.
The evidently free-flowing football between Onyango, Francis Kahata, Francis Mustapha and Jacques Tuyisenge made the game beautiful in front of Lobi’s goal, and more adrenaline from the substitutes would have killed the game.
Tightening the loose nuts
Lobi’s goal scorer Matthias Samuel said the the two-goal caution that Gor carry into the second leg is an inspiration to the Nigerians to work hard and turn around their fortunes.
“We have seen the quality in Gor, but we are more hungry for them in the return match. If all goals were scored in the first half, 90 minutes will be much time for us to bounce back if we give our best,” remarked Samuel.
Gor have a week to prepare for the Nigerian side, with Oktay smelling more glory in the continental stage than his predecessor Dylan Kerr, who dropped to the second tier CAF Cup at a similar stage.
In the words of of his match hero Onyango, the work of tightening the loose nuts after a uninspiring preseason continues and will keep on materialising as the season grows, in all competitions.
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