NAIROBI, Kenya, March 1 – Gor Mahia failed to emulate the class of 87’ when they went down 3-2 to Esperance Sportive de Tunis in their opening match of the CAF Champions League in a pulsating tie played on Saturday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.
Gor head coach Bobby Williamson, congratulated his boys for a job well done and he is looking to keep a clean sheet in the return leg and at least net two goals.
“The boys gave their best and they really tried. We managed to hold them in the first half where we scored a goal through our set pieces.
“The absence of David Owino, was felt since the defenders did not have confidence but Israel Emuge, who replaced him tried since it’s long time he started in a game,” the scot said after the match.
On his part, Esperance tactician, Ruud Krol, said it’s not yet done and anything can happen in the second league.
“Gor is a good team, they played very well. We have learnt a lot from this match, our arrival one day to the match affected us since we didn’t have enough time to train and adapt the environment.
“We were forced to play in their long ball game and it was difficult for us. I know the return leg will be difficult and we will not underrate Gor since this is football anything can happen.”
The host started the match on a high, dominating the first half with Timona Wanyonyi, attempting through his low shot in the second minute.
Ugandans Dan Sserunkuma, Godfrey Walusimbi and Geoffrey Kizito, combined well but could not break through the Tunisians solid defence.
Walusimbi managed to beat the visitors left back to bring in a cross that found no one in the box to slot home.
The North Africans responded immediately with Ghana international Harison Aful, trying to break the deadlock in the 8th but his shot went wide.
K’Ogalo’s hard work finally paid in the 14th when Kevin Omondi, was infringed in the box by defender Chams Dhawad, and canter referee Bouchald Ahrachi, from Morocco did not hesitate to point at the spot-kick that saw Gor top scorer Sserunkuma, slot home at the top corner of the post to open the scoring and send the Green army into celebration.
Esperance tried to pin Gor at their side with Sameh Derbali, bringing a cross from the right flank but defenders cleared the danger.
Wanyonyi could have doubled in the 24th but his effort went wide.
K’Ogalo defence was exposed especially at the left flank which saw the North Africans restore parity when Musa Mohamed failed to clear the ball to enable Ahmed Akakhi, unleash a strike to score in the 25th.
Omondi and Walusimbi partnered well but could not beat the Cathage Eagles keeper Moez Ben who denied them on several occasions.
Ahmed could have notched his brace in the 29th after he beat Musa but defender Haron Shakava, came for rescue when he cleared the ball.
The visitors captain Khali Chammam, picked the ball from the left wing to pass to Cameroon international Yanick Ngang, but he wasted the chance with his off target shot.
With three minutes to the breather, holding midfielder Teddy Akumu, unleashed a cracker that Moez punched for defenders to clear the danger that found Kizito, who replied with a brilliant shot but the keeper was at it again as both sides settled for a one-all-draw in half-time.
K’Ogalo came in the last half highly charged with Walusimbi providing a cross but defenders were up to the task to deny Gor forwards shoot.
Danger-man Sserunkuma had a chance to double but Moez calmly handled his strike with Esperance responding with Houcine Regard’s effort but keeper Jerim Onyango, saved.
Gor’s defence failed to sustain pressure from the North Africans forward Yanick who tapped in after Onyango’s blander to open the lead in the 63rd.
The Cameroonian could have scored his second four minutes later but saw his header go wide.
Williamson brought in Patrick Oboya for Shaba Kenga and George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo, for Omondi who changed the game as they managed to break through Esperance defence.
Gor pressed the two-time champions to their edge and their efforts paid in the 78th when new signing Shakava headed home Wanyonyi’s corner to equalize for a 2-2 draw.
Substitute Iheb Msakni, could have sealed victory for his side in the dying minutes but that only remained to be dream as he blasted his shot
Another Substitute Haythem Goeini, finally hit the final nail on the coffin in the 89th after responding to his rebound that had hit the bar to score the third for the visitors.
K’ogalo will now head to Tunis hoping to keep a clean sheet and score at least two goals to see them proceed to the second round, though Esperance have a three away goal advantage