Who will triumph? Hull Challenge beckons
- Since that maiden clash in May 5 1968, Gor Mahia FC versus AFC Leopards has been Kenya’s idea of football heaven
- Tuesday yet another chance for the Mashemeji Derby to capture the imagination of local fans as two of the country’s most successful clubs lock horns at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru
Since that maiden clash in May 5 1968, Gor Mahia FC versus AFC Leopards has been Kenya’s idea of football heaven.
Tuesday yet another chance for the Mashemeji Derby to capture the imagination of local fans as two of the country’s most successful clubs lock horns at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru.
The clash dubbed Hull City Challenge will see the winning team earn the right to play the English Championship side on May 13 in Kasarani.
Notably, it will be Rodolfo Zapata’s first derby of the kind and thus a quick chance to endear himself to the Ingwe faithful after leading them to a 2-2 draw in his managerial debut on Saturday against Vihiga United.
The Argentinean tactician who succeeded Dennis Kitambi said he has for long time followed Leopards and knows what exactly to expect in the Kenyan league.
Speaking ahead of the match, the Argentine tactician said his charges are ready for the fight.
“I have seen a good team that can do much more than it has done so far, with the good focus and of course change here and there.
“Gor’s match will be special to me, being the first derby and I expect good results. However, it will be the same football, same clubs, same rivalry but a different a day. Every day has its new things,” Zapata said.
While he has yet to master the abilities of every member of his squad, his opposite number Dylan Kerr has already assessed and fielded almost every player in his 34-man squad for this season.
It will be the third time Kerr leads his charges against the eternal rival, where he is unbeaten in the past two having won and drawn one.
The Englishman already has two trophies under his belt having won the KPL title last year and the Super Cup at the start of the current season when they defeated Leopards 1-0 in Nakuru.
“Our task is enormous, in the league and in the CAF Cup, and now we have the Hull City Challenge. So will you let it go? No! You just fight like that fighter whose ways are only winning. Fans will be expecting a win from us, because everyone expects the KPL champion to do better, the Gor in CAF Cup to shine locally and our record against Leopards to get better,” Kerr averred.
Having sunk Leopards this season in the KPL curtain raiser (Super Cup) in the same venue, Gor will be looking to warm up for their Sunday CAF Cup tie against Rwanda’s Rayon Sport in style.
“Every win is a motivation to us. If we go to Rwanda from a win it will be good. I will see who to play where considering our last matches and the ones ahead, because we have to balance within the squad. The reason we have a vast squad is because everyone we are in many competitions, everyone counts,” Kerr added.
In the Gor camp, Eliu Lukuwama, Alpha Onyango, Charles Momanyi, Stephen Otieno, Raphael Asudi, Cercidy Okeyo, Lawrence Juma and Joachim Oluoch could feature in their first derby while Ezekiel Owade, Jairus Adira,Yusuf Mainge, Marcus Abwao, Victor Mavisi, Ezekiel Otuoma, Brian Marita, Marvin Nabwire, Clyde Senaji are in line for their derby debuts for Leopards.
Gor have a superior head to head record judging by the last six outings where they have won all the previous five. Their last defeat was in 2016 when Leopards won 1-0.
Heading into the clash, both backlines have displayed conspicuous vulnerabilities with Ingwe have conceding 12 in the last six while Gor have shipped six in the last three.
A Harun Shakava, Joash Onyango, returnee Godfrey Walusimbi and Joachim Oluoch back-four should be a strong shield against ever improving Leopards marksman Ezekiel Odera.
On the other end, if Kerr fields prolific trio Meddie Kagere, Jacques Tuyisenge and Francis Kahata, it could be disastrous for Ingwe’s uninspired defense.
The Challenge, organised by their main sponsor, presents another chance for the two sides to show who comes first in the pecking order.
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