NAIROBI, Kenya, April 20 – Talisman Dan Sserunkuma scored his first goal in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) Top 8 to lead Gor Mahia to the semi-finals following a 2-1 win over bogey side Thika United in the last quarter-final played at Machakos Kenyatta Stadium on Easter Sunday.
The league champions now joins defending champions Tusker FC, AFC Leopards and debutants KCB in the last four that will be played in a home and away basis from next weekend.
Sserunkuma netted the opener in the 44th minute before Rama Salim extended the lead in the 59th as skipper Dennis Odhiambo scored the consolation for Thika in the 65th from the spot.
K’Ogalo suffered an early blow that forced coach Bobby Williamson, to do two early substitutions after his dependable players were stretched off from action piling more injury woe on the league champions and previous Top 8 winners.
Stand-in- captain and Harambee Stars defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino, was the first to get out of field of play after aggravating an ankle injury that kept him out earlier in the season following a hard tackle by Moses Arita in the 6th for Ugandan Israel Emuge to take his place.
Innocent Mutiso was the next victim 10 minutes later after colliding with Joseph Kuria to pave way for George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo.
“It was a difficult match for us at 2-0 we thought we were comfortable and then we gave away the penalty though it did not look genuine to me but we could have scored more goals. We will work out on our negatives and hope to improve in our upcoming matches.
“The first half was very physical and the referee did not book any one, which left us with a big blow since we lost two crucial players. I’m happy with the partnership of Sserunkuma and Rama that has helped us win the last two matches,” Gor coach Williamson said in a post match interview.
“We played well despite conceding very simple goals through transitions because it was a build up then we lost the ball and lack of concentration cost our second goal. I was forced to bring out my captain Odhiambo, who was injured and it’s also good since he gives other players chance.
“We are now left with the league and the GOtv shield to concentrate on and we hope to give it a good punch,” Thika tactician John Kamau who led his side to the final last year rued.
Williamson kept faith with the squad that won 2-1 last Sunday at Ulinzi, making no change that saw their first choice custodian and captain Jerim Onyango, start on the bench.
Salim could have put his charges ahead when he came close twice in the 14th and 17th but the midfielder wasted Musa Mohammed and Godfrey Walusumbi’s great crosses from the left wing.
Gor’s top scorer Sserunkuma attempted to break the deadlock four minutes later after Walusimbi set him up only to see his efforts hit the side netting.
Teenager Timonah Wanyonyi, pressed Thika defenders twice but luck was not on his side as he blasted wide on both occasions.
The opening goal finally came on the stroke of half time through Cranes forward Sserunkuma who notched his first goal in the competition after his fellow countryman Geoffrey Kizito set him through affording him all the time and space to unleash a cracker that beat keeper Hamuza Muwonge to send the Green Army into raptures.
Thika resumed the better side in the last half with captain Odhiambo giving his side the first shot on target in the 57th that went direct to keeper David Juma before Simon Mbugua’s attempt to halve the scores went futile.
Two minutes later, Salim doubled the lead for K’Ogalo after controlling Mohammed’s cross to send the ball home from close range and net for his third goal of the season.
Kamau charges pulled one back through Odhiambo from the spot after a K‘Ogalo defender handled the ball in the area to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
Thika forwards Bernard Meki and Arita struggled to impress on their end but could not manage to break through Gor’s solid defence.
The Brookside sponsored side however, had their chances in the dying minutes with King’atua shooting straight to Juma as Arita’s strike from close range went wide.
K’Ogalo enjoyed the final attempt on goal with two counter attacks but Salim headed wide while Wanyonyi could not reach Sserunkuma cross to see Muwonge come out of his line to rescue in the final minute of action.
Gor joins defending champions Tusker FC, AFC Leopards and KCB in the two legged semis.