It was a proper contest this. A proper derby. Tightly fought, both on the pitch and up the stands. It had goals, the lucky ones ala Jacques Tuyisenge’s opener for the irrepressible, unbeaten, reigning and record title holders Gor Mahia, and also a classy, work of art ala Wyvonne Issuza’s equalizer for second in command AFC Leopards.
Fans of both clubs had been waiting for this Mashemeji Derby since early this year, January 28, 2018 to be exact, the last time these two great local rivals paraded their best XI against each other in the season curtain raiser, the KPL Super Cup.
There was marked disappointment when the rematch, which should have happened in April or thereabouts, was pushed to an undefined date to allow called-up players from both sides participate in some nondescript international friendly matches
That Super Cup clash was settled by a solitary no nonsense header from Harun Shakava who would go on and lift his first title as Gor Mahia’s new captain.
Shakava was here again at the Kasarani Stadium as he led his troops out of the dressing room to face THE enemy for the second, and definitely not the last time this calendar year.
Both sides picked a strong XI, although Leopards couldn’t call on their captain Duncan Otieno, Salim Abdalla assuming the captaincy. This was boss Rodolfo Zapata’s first taste of the derby. His hopes were that it won’t start in defeat.
His Gor Mahia counterpart, Dylan Kerr had a couple of days ago seen his charges easily make minced meat of Yanga, another pretender to the crown of being the ‘best team in East Africa.’ 4-0 was the result, and it could have been more.
What better way to prepare for your local rivals than giving your regional rivals a good hiding!
That hiding was handed in the absence of first choice players like keeper Boniface Olouch and dependable centerback Joash Onyango. The duo returned to the starting XI here.
Leopards are by no means a Yanga. They had more drive and hunger here, more support, an image to protect, points to gather, bragging to do.
Unfortunately, like has been the case lately, it all ended in capitulation. May be it’s about time the Leopard submitted, conceded and resigned to a growing fact that their once close opponents are some miles ahead now.
Ideally, they should not. Derbies are about being defiant, and a defiant Leopard we have seen over the years, and here, too.
The first quarter of this battle was predictable as both teams strode up and down in search of an advantage, while also keen not to be at a disadvantage that early. The drums and songs and chants and whistles on the stands were equally balanced.
It was all going according to some script until an elementary mistake by defender Salim Abdalla flipped the page. The captain of this day’s Ingwe undercooked a back pass towards his keeper Ezekiel Owade. Tuyisenge was lurking in danger and he made long strides and got the ball ahead of the keeper before slamming it with maximum power to the keeper’s narrow left side.
Shittu’s error was one that proponents of ‘playing from the back’ know only too well. It becomes almost inevitable especially when opponents are pressing up high. But still, the bully defender should have done better.
1-0 to the Green Army, 22 minutes in.
If Tuyisenge’s goal was presented courtesy of lady luck, the equalizer from Whyvonne Isuzza was sponsored by the stars. The club’s leading goalscorer had his ‘Gareth Bale’ moment at the stroke of halftime when he scissor-kicked into the back of Oluoch’s goal to silence, albeit temporarily, the thousands of K’Ogalo fans that had thronged the newly refurbished facility.
A cross from the right found the attacking midfielder prying in wait. He had time to think, probably cool the ball, beat his marker or just volley it home. He did the latter, but with a bit of skill and flair, crossing his legs in quick succession and hitting the ball into ground. The bounce sold Oluoch off, the keeper barely making a move as Ingwe got the leveler.
Gor Mahia returned better and more organized in the second half capitalizing on a weak Ingwe midfield.
Humphrey Mieno was the tormentor-in-chief, pulling strings in midfield, assisted by the ever green Francis Kahata and George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo.
The latter would claim the winner in the 51st minute, slamming home a Kahata cross to make it 2-1.
By Steve Ayoo (@Steifmaster 88)