Gor Mahia failed to break down Ushuru FC for the second game running as the two teams brawled to a barren stalemate in the final Kenyan Premier League matchday 18 clash at the Nyayo Stadium, Sunday evening.
Unlike the first leg which Ushuru started as if their legs were trembling in fear and which they felt lucky to get a point from at the end (Jacob Keli missed a penalty), they were braver, better and daring this time round, more so in the opening half.
And while Kogalo were predictably the better side after the interval, the reigning league champions were unable to find a goal for a second consecutive time against the Taxman. Before that, they had netted 7 times and conceded zero against Ken Kenyatta’s side, including back-to-back 2-0 wins last season.
Victory would have seen Ze Maria’s men move to within three points of Tusker FC who were held to a 2-2 stalemate by Chemelil.
It appeared that no one was more irked by the result than the visitors’ physical trainer Sandro Fantoni (pictured above, topless) who stormed the pitch at the final whistle and rushed towards match officials, intention unknown, but he was stopped on his tracks by fullback Karim Nizigiyamana and a couple of match stewards.
Fantoni, a renowned drama queen who loves hair on his chest than his head, straight ‘outta’ Italy, had even pulled his shirts off ready to receive and dish out any blows in equal measure. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong opponent, the referees, who looked least interested.
Try out Kenyatta next time Fantoni lad.
In truth, Gor Mahia created little to deserve the three points. They were blunt in the first half and only woke up during the closing 20 minutes with Amos Nondi coming close from a whipped corner while Eric Ouma also saw his shot firmly blocked by sacrificial bodies manning the Ushuru defence.
A late goalmouth melee saw Ushuru keeper Odhoji make a stunning save from point blank range, denying fan favorite Meddie Kagere his second goal in as many matches for the record champions.
The first half was a shooting contest between Gor Mahia keeper Boniface Oluoch and the Ushuru frontline led by Lamine Diallo. Oluoch was tested as early as the fourth minute but he was equal to the task, keeping away a low shot from Diallo, a former AFC Leopards player who scored the winning goal the last time he faced the defending champions while at his ex club.
Diallo, who was having a field day against the unfamiliar, untested center half pairing of Musa Mohamed and Luke Ochieng, would be denied once again by the keeper in the 20th minute when his quick feet and matching skills saw him leave three Gor Mahia defenders for dead but Oluoch once again stood tall, making a point blank save to keep the scores level.
Kogalo’s first sight of goal was a 37th minute Kagere header from a Nondi cross which went wide. Three minutes later, Oluoch was called into action once again, saving an Aziz Okaka shot with an outstretched feet at the stroke of half time.
Chances were far and thin for Gor Mahia in the opening half with Ushuru keeper Odhoji only troubled by a whipped cross from ‘Marcelo’ Ouma which flashed across the face of goal, begging for the faintest of touches which Kagere could not get as he was some inches behind.
The two sides went into the breather leveled, a scoreline which was a disservice to Ushuru who had done it all, except getting past the opposition keeper.
Ze Maria’s first action after the interval was introducing mid-season signing Baron Jobita to the match, George Odhiambo sacrificed, and the former Western Stima man added some pace to the attack especially down the left channel. Innocent Wafula came in for Francis Kahata and the winger also had his chances on the opposite flank.
However, it was Ushuru who had the better chances with Diallo once again cursing himself for missing a one-on-one chance with Oluoch whose saves became better as the game progressed.
The finals minutes ticked by so fast, thanks in part to Ushuru’s play-acting antics, most of of their players acting injured to slow Kogalo’s assault.
The result however sees Gor Mahia reclaim second spot from Mathare United although both teams are locked on 31 points. Tusker are five points ahead.
In other matches, Posta Rangers lost 2-1 to Muhoroni Youth while Kakamega Homeboyz were held to a 1-1 draw by bottom side Sofapaka.
Ushuru Starting XI: Shaban Odhoji (GK), Jackton Onjala, Rodgers Ochieng, Fan Ngaira, Kelal Ogal, Maurice Odipo, Eric Mata, Philemon Otieno, Lamine Diallo, Kennedy Oduor, Aziz Okaka
Subs: Barnabas Tiema (GK), Evans Kiwanuka, Roy Okal, Roosevelt Blaty, Dennis Wafula, Oscar Mbugua, John Kiplang’at
Gor Mahia Starting XI: Boniface Oluoch (GK), Karim Nizigiyimana, Eric Ouma, Musa Mohammed, Luke Ochieng, Ernest Wendo, Amos Nondi, Francis Kahata, George Odhiambo, Jacques Tuyisenge, Meddie Kagere
Subs: Jerim Onyango (GK), Wellington Ochieng, Abouba Sibomana, Enock Agwanda, Anthony Mbugua, Baron Oketch, Innocent Wafula
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