By Steve Ayoo (@Steifmaster88)
All good things come to an end, so they say.
And the end of what has been a near epic run in the 2018 Caf Confederation Cup has come to a halt for Kenya’s Gor Mahia.
Their participation in the 2018 showpiece of what is Africa’s second most lucrative club competition has come to a debilitating, perhaps predictable end after they fell to a 2-1 defeat to hosts USM Alger who reached the quarters alongside Rwandese side Rayon Sports.
Kogalo, going into the match having just wrapped up a 17th Kenyan Premier League title with Mashemeji Derby victory, needed at least a draw, or for Yanga SC to get a result away to Rayon for them to reach the quarters.
But despite calling back the big stars into his squad, Dylan Kerr’s men failed to get over the line.
That inexplicable, now unforgivable home loss to Rayon almost a fortnight ago has come to hit where we thought it would hurt the most.
Congolese striker Prince Vinny Ibara Doniama scored the opener for USM in the 36th minute and Amir Sayoud made it 2-0 the 8 minutes to the end to put the home side on their way to their desired result.
Jacques Tuyisenge pulled one back immediately after Sayoud’s goal but that served as a mere consolation.
Eyes on Rayon, too
A loss in Algiers was never going to automatically lock Gor Mahia out. It needed to coincide with Rayon beating Yanga in Kigali.
And so it happened as Caleb Bimenyimana scored a first half winner for Rayon at home against Yanga, all but ensuring that Kogalo’s obituary was read out and clear, both in North and East Africa.
It seemed like the football gods were rooting for Gor when Fredrick Odhiambo saved a 13th minute penalty from Mohammed Rabie following Harun Shakava’s handball. Rabie aimed at the middle of Odhiambo’s goal and the keeper made the save with his feet as he refused to concede from a penalty for a third straight match (saved from Kepha Aswani against Sofapaka while Wyvonne Isuza’s derby pen went wide).
Odhiambo would twice frustrate Yaya Faouzi’s efforts either side of Ibara’s goal to keep his side in the game.
At the interval, USM topped everything with possession statistics putting them at 64% to Gor’s 36%. They also had 9 shots on goal with four on target, while Kogalo were restricted to just one shot, a weak effort from Tuyisenge which the home keeper Mohamed Zemammouchi had no qualms gathering.
The referee’s half time whistle brought to an end a half headlined by Ibara‘s towering header off a cross from Redouane Cherifi.
USM, well aware to the fact that just a goal for the visitors would turn the match on its head, did not relent and continued to have a go at their opponents.
Mohamed Mefta rammed a free-kick against the Gor Mahia wall while Abdelraouf Benguit also failed to make Odhiambo work early on.
Knowing that matters were not fully in their hands, Kerr made an attacking change as Samuel Onyango added to the numbers up front at the expense of fullback Karim Nizigiyimana.
The visitors almost got the equalizer when Shakava sent a long distance drive towards Zemammouchi who made the save, albeit uncomfortably, before his defence did the rest to clear the rebound.
The home side attacked next and it bore fruit as Sayoud, who replaced Ibara, hit home inside the box.
From the restart, Francis Kahata and Tuyisenge (among those who had been rested to specifically deliver in this match), combined to give Kogalo some hope, the Rwandese heading home a corner cross from Kahata’s feet with 7 minutes to play.
Another goal for Gor could have booked them a quarters spot but it just never looked likely.
THAT defeat against Rayon always felt like it would be the one Gor would live regret, and so it proved.
Gor Mahia: 1. Fredrick Odhiambo (GK), 3. Karim Nzigiyimana, 12. Joash Onyango, 27. Charles Momanyi, 18. Haron Shakava, 20. Ernest Wendo, 30. Humphrey Mieno, 8. Francis Kahata, 25. George Odhiambo, 9. Jacques Tuyisenge, 26. Philemon Otieno
Subs: 1. Boniface Oluoch, 21. Wesley Onguso, 17. Benard Ondiek, 23. Francis Mustafa, 6. Samuel Onyango, 24. Lawrence Juma
USM Alger: Mohammed Zemmamouche (GK), Rafik Chafai, Abderrahime Hamra, Mohammed Meftah, Redouane Cherifi, Oussama Chita, Abdelrauf Benguit, Hamza Koudri, Faouzi Yaya, Abdel Kader Meziane, Prince Ibarra
Subs: Mourad Berrefane, Mexes Nyeck, Aymen Mahious, Mehdi Benchikhoune, Amir Sayoud