By Steve Ayoo (@Steifmaster88)
Gor Mahia will be crowned the 2018 Kenyan Premier League champions by registering at least a draw against sworn rivals AFC Leopards this Saturday (25) after a thumping 3-0 defeat of Sofapaka all but ensured a 17th league title will be celebrated by the Green Army.
A goal from Joachim Oluoch in the 43rd minute and two after the interval from captain Innocent Wafula (63rd minute) and Samuel Onyango (83rd minute) secured victory for Kogalo against a Sofapaka outfit who were reduced to 10 men following Wycliffe Kasaya’s red card, and then had to play the final 10 minutes with a further man down after injury to Mohamed Kilume.
Gor Mahia went into the match at the back of a potentially catastrophic 2-1 defeat to Rayon Sports that leaves their Caf Confederation Cup quarterfinals qualification hopes hanging by the skin of their collective teeth.
Sofapaka meanwhile had been stunned 1-0 by Vihiga United before earning a 2-2 draw at Nzoia United, thanks to a second half equalizer from Stephen Waruru.
The duo paraded their best XI of the day at Narok Stadium in front of a commendable crowd which perhaps was hopeful of an action-packed match ala when Paka rallied from behind to force a 3-3 draw in the first leg in May.
With an eye on the weekend derby against AFC Leopards as well as the Caf Confederation Cup duty in Algeirs on Aug 29, Gor coach Kerr named an understrength starting XI.
Fredrick Odhiambo started in goal with Shaban Odhoji taking a place on the bench. There were no such names as Philemon Otieno, Francis Kahata, George Odhiambo, Ephrem Guikan and Humphrey Mieno in the squad as Innocent Wafula took the armband.
Eliud Lokuwam, the lone scorer in the 1-0 win over Chemelil last week, was rewarded with a starting role.
Sofapaka boss Francis Baraza meanwhile had an almost full strength squad to chose from, even deciding to bench Pistone Mutamba and Stephen Waruru. Kasaya was given the nod to start in goal against his former employers.
Not the smartest of moves at the end, was it?
The neatly tucked-in Kilume led a three-man midfield with him at the base and Ellie Asieche at the apex, meaning Dennis Odhiambo started at leftback.
Gor started like a team on fire and were almost gifted the lead when Justin Mico’s attempted clearance almost wrong footed Kasaya but the hosts conceded a corner instead with 10 minutes played.
On the other end, Asieche tested Odhiambo with a fierce drive which was comfortably saved. The home side were then handed a clear-cut chance to leap ahead at quarter hour mark when Ezekiel Okare won a penalty but Kepha Aswani’s effort was well saved by Odhiambo who dived to his left and palmed the ball away for a corner.
Gor Mahia managed to soak up the increasing pressure from Sofapaka as chances became premium. Cercidy Okeyo struck a free-kick won outside the area by Lokuwam straight at Kasaya after 35 minutes.
It felt like the half wouldn’t end without a goal and rightly so. The green army of Gor Mahia were two minutes before the end of first half singing ‘oseloyo Gor Mahia oseloyo‘ (we have scored Gor Mahia we have scored) when Oluoch slid in to bundle home from Wycliffe Onguso’s corner which the hosts’ defence failed to deal with.
The game almost produced another goal but Brian Magonya saw his header, which was destined to sink under the bar, tipped over by Onyango as the half time whistle blew.
Magonya would exit the stage just before the restart with captain Waruru getting in. The fiery attacker almost made an immediate impact when he beat Karim Nizigiyimana down the left before crossing the ball to Aswani who blazed over from inside the six yard box.
A minute later, Aswani was wasting another chance, failing to keep his header down from a corner cross.
The two sides then turned to the substitutes bench as Raphael Asudi replaced injured Onguso for Gor while Timothy Luda came in for Asieche whose influence in the game was waning.
The game took a dramatic twist when, at the hour mark, Kasaya received his marching orders after trying to do too much with the ball in front of Lawrence Juma who robbed the keeper of the ball and drew a foul.
Referee Caroline Wanjala dished out a straight red card and a penalty which Wafula netted, sending Kigonya shopping after 63 minutes.
Sofapaka would be handed another blow when Kilume got injured and never returned to action.
Minutes after his exit, Kogalo put the game to bed when Samuel Onyango completed a sweeping move.
So well-knit (tricks, flicks and befitting finish) was the final goal that Kogalo’s technical bench, led by head honcho Kerr, joined the celebrations at the corner flag.
The final 7 minutes and the two additional ones saw Kogalo toy around with the ball as the impressive Charles Momanyi and Oluoch dealt with every little thing, and they were dang little, that came their way.
What it means
The result means that Sofapaka can no longer win the title. Only AFC Leopards and Bandari, both 20 points behind Gor who are on 68 points and with only 21 points on offer for them, can somehow… OK forget it, it’s never happening.
Up next for the most dominant side in the land is a battle against the team that should be challenging this dominance, the Leopards.
Leopards are on a fine run with five wins from five which is just about the form they need to make this tie a contest.
The previous meeting last June ended 2-1 in favor of Kogalo who will have the extra motivation of being crowned a record extending 17-time champions via a result against THEE enemy.
Who will win it and how? Be sure to get back here for unbiased reporting.