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Everton youngster Kieran Dowell netted a second half screamer as the Toffees made a winning start to their pre-season campaign, beating record Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia 2-1 at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The Toffees were matched stride for stride by Gor Mahia in a pedestrian opening half which blitzed to life in the 34th minute courtesy of a thunderous strike from new signing Wayne Rooney. After an eventful first half that saw him approached by a pitch invader wearing a Manchester United shirt, Rooney gave Everton the lead with a superb curling finish from 25 yards out. Scores of Everton fans who watched the clip either online or on Everton TV were quick to point out that the effort was almost identical to Rooney's first ever senior goal for Everton against Arsenal.

It was the former Manchester United star's first Everton goal since he scored against Leeds 4,839 days ago.

However, the lead lasted only for two minutes as Jacques Tuyisenge pulled Kogalo level with a fine header from a corner, Toffees keeper Marteen Stekelenburg barely getting a touch.

Everton upped the tempo after the interval and created one chance after another as Kogalo's substitute keeper Peter Odhiambo was made increasingly busy. Boniface Oluoch, whose positioning could be questioned when Rooney beat him, must have felt lucky having been largely underworked during his 45-minute run out.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin was running the show and had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside. Kieran Dowell came close to restoring Everton's lead but his curling effort in the 79th minute hit the crossbar with the keeper stranded. Idrissa Gueye also got in the thick of it and was denied a goal by Harun Shakava who cleared off the line.

There was ever less that the Gor Mahia reserve keeper could do as the 19-year-old let fly a left-footed effort from outside the area that found the roof of the net. Dowell picked a pass from Everton's biggest find of last season Tom Davies and with his back to the goal, the youngster took a couple of strides forward before smashing home with eight minutes to the final whistle.

Dowell and fellow substitute Calvert-Lewin as well as Kevin Mirallas tilted the game in the Toffees' favor as Kogalo's substitutes failed to match the efforts of the first half team. Dowell had a shot saved while new signing from Burnley Michael Keane headed just wide as the minutes ticked. Gor Mahia barely threatened to hit the equalizer and force the clash to penalties even as six minutes were added on.

Gor Mahia earned the right to play Everton after winning the regional SportPesa Super Cup, which pitted teams from Tanzania against those from Kenya.

 

 

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Slide at the corner flag. This is the first thing that comes into a scorers mind when he smashes the ball into the net  however, it is not attainable when you have a bad playing surface and one that cannot allow easy movement of the ball and player mobility. 

Five months ago, the national stadium in Dar es Salaam looked like a potato farm and anything close to hosting a high profile match was a pipe dream. The Chinese owned facility is mostly locked and only ‘specific’ matches allowed to be played at the facility. 

In June, during the SportPesa Super Cup, teams participating in the tournament used the Uhuru stadium, adjacent to the modern National stadium to play their matches, including the high profile final featuring eventual winners Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. Many questioned the decision but little did they know that something nice was cooking on the other side.

The National stadium has been closed for five months and will be officially opened on Thursday 13th July at 2:30pm as fans streaming in to watch SportPesa Premier League (SPL) leaders Gor Mahia take on English Premier League (EPL) side Everton get a first glimpse at the spectacle.

A random walk into the facility lands us to a young energetic man. On the first sight, one might think he is a football scout or physical trainer; Shane McGeown is the grounds man at the National stadium in Dar es Salaam. The Northern Irishman was sent to Africa to ensure that the Toffees left Tanzania in one peace when they take on Gor Mahia and for sure, he has succeeded in making the stadium look like what many football lovers in the sub Saharan Africa watch on TV.

After the SportPesa Super Cup final, plans to have new grass reseeded at the National stadium got uinderway and the Clive Ricarhdson limited was tasked with making this possible. This is when McGeow came in and turned around everything.

He tells fourfourtwomedia that they had to rush matters to ensure that their client SportPesa were satisfied ahead of the clash between the Merseyside and Nairobi. 

He tells us that they had a five week plan and through experience, they knew exactly what to do to make sure that they did not disappoint.

‘After getting the job, we embarked on the search for better grass to use during the reseeding of this facility’

‘We got the right grass (Rye grass), which merged well with what we found here(Bumuda grass)’

‘First of all we cut the Bumuda to almost zero size, dug the ground then reseeded using the Rye grass which works fantastically in hot areas,’

‘We used plenty of water to make this happen and the results have been fantastic,’ he said.

Having worked in many countries and most recently in France during the Euro’s, McGeow says the stadium managers should ensure that only a restricted number of matches are played at a particular surface in a season.

‘Having over 40 matches played in one stadium is insane, we need to balance, have maybe 20-22 matches in a ground like this,’ he concludes.

 

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