GOR Mahia went to the top of the Tusker Premier League table after beating historic arch rivals AFC Leopards 2-1 on Saturday at the International Sports Centre Kasarani, with Ugandan import hitting the double for the victors.
In the 2012 Premiership title chase which ends on November 12, Gor Mahia suddenly held destiny in their own hands. On 46 points with five matches to go, K’ogalo lead second and third-placed Leopards and Tusker, respectively, by a point.
Tusker, however, have played 24 times and their catch-up match on Sunday against Karuturi Sports at Oserian, Naivasha, on Sunday will be of great interest to buoyant Gor Mahia supporters.
Victory for Tusker would wipe out the Gor lead, putting the Brewers on top, and two points clear.
For the final outcome, it will then boil down to how the top four teams, including Thika United, fair [ six points adrift Sofapaka and Ulinzi Stars are long shots] in their remaining five to six fixtures each, which will be:
Gor Mahia (5 matches):
Rangers v Gor Mahia, Gor Mahia v Karuturi Sports, Gor Mahia v Tusker, Muhoroni Youth v Gor Mahia, Gor Mahia v Thika United
Tusker (6 matches):
Karuturi Sports v Tusker, Tusker v Thika United, Tusker v Muhoroni Youth, Gor Mahia v Tusker, Tusker v Western Stima, Nairobi City Stars v Tusker
AFC Leopards (5 matches):
Muhoroni Youth v AFC Leopards, AFC Leopards v Ulinzi Stars, Oserian v AFC Leopards, AFC Leopards v Mathare United, Chemelil Sugar v AFC Leopards
Thika United (6 matches):
Sony Sugar v Thika United, Tusker v Thika United, Thika United v Western Stima, Ulinzi Stars v Thika United, Thika United v Chemelil Sugar, Gor Mahia v Thika United
AFC Leopards 1 Gor Mahia 2
Dan Sserunkuma’s two first half finishes seemed to have smashed Leopards into submission and it was big credit to Tusker Premier League football that Leopards dragged themselves back from the dead with a blistering second half play and almost took a point from the encounter.
Kevin Omondi stole ball from a Jonas Nahimana hesitance, surged forward to hammer at Patrick Matasi in the Leopards goal. A rebound off the ‘keeper fell to Sserunkuma to tap him for the opener in the 13th minute.
Leopards tried a quick response and most notable was Bernard Mang’oli’s 24th minute cross from the right which Allan Wanga headed well but the Gor Mahia skipper, Frederick Onyango in goal punched out for a corner.
But Gor Mahia were to tighten their grip on the opening period , going 2-0 up in the 36th minute. Their attackers were always in their stride and were to be rewarded when Ramadhan Salim created the opportunity with a floated free-kick being punched out for a determining corner.
Moses Odhiambo was creative enough, taking the corner short to Sserunkuma, who had a first touch and then beat Bernard Mang’oli with control before firing into the top right corner.
At that juncture, the genuine fears among dejected Leopards supporters were that their team would be run ragged.
But on the pitch, Leopards felt that the incidents resulting into the goals were unfortunate and that they had not necessarily been outplayed. They made a fight of it and Gor Mahia just only managed to take their healthy lead into the beak.
Jan Koops tried to steady the Leopards’ ship with early substitutions after the interval. He took off Idrissa Rajab and Floribert Ndayisaba and in came Abbassi Kiwalabye at the back and Paul Were up front.
It paid. After sustained pressure Gor Mahia cracked in the 57th minute and Mike Baraza forcefully broke through to score, cutting the lead.
In the 74th minute another great opportunity fell for Leopards, skipper Martin Imbalambala down the right but his cross by the face of goal needed a teammate for a simple tap in for the equaliser. Baraza, however, was three metres too behind.
Gor also had opportunities to stretch their lead, Edwin Lavatsa, a second half substitute for Sserunkuma, leaving Nahimana crawling on the deck shooting off target possession that would have suited a waiting Salim’s finish.
The Gor Mahia win, though climaxing a spectacular 14-match unbeaten streak and tipping the odds towards a team that was at one time 17 points behind Leopards, by no means delivered a decisive blow to Leopards’ own aspirations for the league title.
If ‘Ingwe’ can buckle down and turn-around an uncharacteristic run of four matches without victory, including three defeats, they would still be part of a thrilling finish to another Premiership season.
AFC LEOPARDS - 1. Patrick Matasi: 12. Augustine Etemesi, 46. Idrissa Rajab (3. Abbassi Kiwalabye, 51’), 17. Jonas Nahimana, 40. Eric Masika, 4. Martin Imbalambala (captain), 22. Bernard Mang’oli, 18. Floribert Ndayisaba (44. Paul Were, 51’), 9. Allan Wanga, 10. Charles Okwemba ( 50. Jimmy Bagaye, 63’), 11. Mike Baraza
Reserves - 19. Barnabas Tiema, Gk; 14. Amon Muchiri, 8. Laurent Tumba, 7. Oscar Kadenge
Scorers – 11. Mike Baraza (57’)
Coach - Jan Koops [The Netherlands]
GOR MAHIA - 1. Frederick Onyango (captain): 19. Solomon Nasio, 3. Christopher Wekesa, 18. Ivan Anguyo, 4. Donald Mosoti, 6. Anthony “Teddy” Akumu, 10. Victor Ali Abondo, 14. Kevin Omondi (20. Joseph Njuguna, 57’), 8. Dan Sserunkuma (9. Edwin Lavatsa, 63’), 21. Ramadhan Salim (15. David Owino, 82’), 25. Moses Odhiambo
Scorers - 8. Dan Sserunkuma (13’, 36’)
Coach - Zdravko Logarusic [Croatia]
* * * *
Referee - Sylvestre Kirwa
Assistant ref - Jane Cherono
Asst ref - Dorcas Moraa
Reserve ref - Tabitha Wambui
Match commissioner - Tabitha Wambui
TUSKER PREMIER LEAGUE
RESULTS & FIXTURES:
Mathare United 2-2 Chemelil
Sofapaka 1-2 Western Stima
AFC Leopards 1-2 Gor Mahia
2.00pm: (15)Oserian v (6)Ulinzi Stars [Oserian] * TV
4.00pm: (10)Karuturi Sports v (2)Tusker [Oserian] * TV
3.00pm: (11)Sony Sugar v (4)Thika United [Awendo]
3.00pm: (14)Muhoroni Youth v (13)Nairobi City Stars [Muhoroni]
4.00pm: (12)KCB v (16)Rangers [City Stadium] * TV
Patrick KAGOGO [Tusker] one (1) red card, to miss match No. 197, Karuturi Sports v Tusker
Eric MURANGA [Rangers] Two (2) red cards in a season, to miss match No. 192, Thika v Rangers [Thika Stadium] and KCB v Rangers [City Stadium]