NAIROBI, Kenya, March 18- The beautiful and ugly faces of Kenyan football once again sat side by side at Nyayo National Stadium as Gor Mahia and archrivals AFC played to a tempestuous barren draw on Sunday.
With 20 minutes to go, the match that saw both sides go at each other in the fixture variously known as ‘Kenyan Derby’ or ‘Shemeji (In-laws) Derby’ turned on its head when referee Davies Omweno sent-off Gor’s Victor Ali for a dangerous two-footed lunge at Leopard’s Amon Muchiri.
Some Gor supporters enraged by the decision began rioting in the stands, pelting the pitch with missiles before security forces lobbed tear gas canisters to clear them from the stadium.
Outside, vehicles were stoned as the charged fans made their exit forcing the match to be held up for 15 minutes, with the players hurdled on one corner of the stadium.
Omweno restarted the game after Gor players went round the pitch disposing the projectiles hurled at the ground before beseeching their supporters who remained in the stadium to observe calm.
The fracas was in sharp contrast with the atmosphere created pre-match as the followers of the most supported clubs in the country filed into the stadium for the 32nd league derby.
Song, dance and the occasional taunting saw Nyayo rock as the teams took to the pitch with Kenyan Premier League (KPL) leaders AFC Leopards out to pile on the misery of their arch nemesis that had lost three matches on the trot.
However, it is Gor who went on the offensive from the first whistle, laying siege at Leopard’s goal with keeper Patrick Matasi being forced to repel Ramah Salim’s viciously swung free-kick in the second minute.
The two successive corners from that play saw Gor threaten without menace and three minutes later, Leopards could have had a penalty as inform Allan Wanga tumbled in the box under a challenge from keeper Wycliffe Kasaya but Omweno played the advantage as the ball fell for Victor Ochieng.
Ochieng floated the ball across to the far post but there was no one to connect as the game settled to a lull after the frenetic opening.
With Gor preferring to attack Leopards with speed from midfield, Jan Coop’s charges opted for measured build-ups and eye catching interchange of play between Ochieng and Wanga saw the latter miss the return pass in the box in the 15th.
The ball fell for Jimmy Bagaye who should have done better than to stroke the ball to a grateful Kasaya.
There was no further action of note until the half hour mark where AFC’s Bernard Magoli thumped a free-kick from a promising position almost to the adjacent Aerodrome Road.
Gor lost Salim to injury and his replacement John Kiplagat fed off a wonderful cross from the lively Kevin Ochieng just inside the box only for the midfielder to fire the effort well over in an echo of Mangoli’s effort as they went in to the brake tied at 0-0.
Another roar from the fans that could have rivalled any famed derby in the world greeted the players when they returned and five minutes later, Leopards who were keeping Kasaya well occupied spurned another chance to open the scoring.
Bageya raced to the right and delivered a peach of a cross to the box but captain Martin Imbalambala who had made a spirited run from the back arrived off balance to skew his header well over the bar.
Gor stand in coach, John ‘Bobby’ Ogolla brought on Moses Odhiambo to shore up the midfield as Leopards reacted by sending on their top scorer from last season, Mike Baraza.
In the 63rd Kasaya easily gathered a Salim Kinje long range drive and seven minutes later, all hell broke loose and despite the sight of Muchiri being carried off on a stretcher, irate Gor fans were convinced he had dived for the red as they let their anger boil over.
After the restart, both teams appeared jaded and with their man advantage, AFC started to find holes in Gor’s rearguard as their keeper time and again made crucial interventions to keep the scores level.
Odhiambo who had a field day on Leopards left sent a hard free-kick for a foul on Ochieng at the edge of the area that earned Nahimana the yellow, into the safe hands of Matasi in the 89th.
A minute later, Wanga, a scorer of four in four prior to the derby had the guilt edged opportunity to enter folklore with a winner but his header from a Charles Okwemba teasing delivery from the right went wide.