NAIROBI, Kenya, March 2 – The name Leopards is enough to rouse any Gor Mahia fan into full combat mode and the Green Army banking their decades-old arch rivalry with fellow domestic giants AFC will spur their side to trump Congo’s AC Leopards in their two-legged CAF Champions League first round clash.
Gor scrapped through to the round after winning their preliminary stage on away goals following a 3-3 stalemate against Madagascar’s CNaPS over two legs to be paired with the Leopards.
Already, interest in the match has soared with Gor fans taking to social media to rally themselves and raise funds to enable their team prepare for the tie as they hope to inspire the team to stamping their mark on the continental scene.
Gor arrived Monday evening to low key reception unlike last year where the Green Army faithful jam-packed the waiting area of International Arrivals with cheer, song and dance after their beloved club bundled out Gabon’s US Bitam on penalties at the same stage.
Substitute George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo’s stoppage time goal proved to be the difference between the sides despite losing 2-3 in the return leg received with head coach Frank Nuttal hailing his side for stepping up in the second half after going to the break 1-3 down and out of the competition.
“It was an extremely tough match and from the first minute it was a hard work; I have to give credit to players because they managed to stick to the task after being mentality and physically strong.
“We underperformed in the first half but players realized at half time and true to their character they were able to react correctly and got the result that we needed. We hope to carry on the experience in our next match,” the Scotsman told Capital Sport when the team touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Despite having a poor first half that saw them concede three goals after their back-line of Musa Mohammed, Dikir Glay, Kevin Oluoch and Harun Shakava crumbled, Nuttall charges managed to pin down the hosts who turned defensive in a bid to preserve the two goal cushion that would have sent them through in a packed stadium.
The Scotsman’s single change from the squad that won 1-0 in the opening leg where he replaced Jerry Santos with Collins Okoth in the midfield seemed to have worked after the latter combined well with Khalid Aucho, Ronald Omino, Michael Olunga and Ali Abondo to pile pressure on the second half.
“Their undoing was when they scored the third goal because they all sat back and with a minute to the final whistle the killer came when substitute Odhiambo hit them.
“Collins was suddenly fresh and I just felt that he would lift the midfield; Abondo is good he not only continues scoring goals but also helps motivate the team because his work rate is very high. His input in the second half was very good and he took some tough challenges so he is a tough boy,” Nuttall underscored.
Abondo who scored the lone goal in the first half has been instrumental to the team since rejoining at the beginning of the season from Tusker FC and hopes to maintain the tempo.
“The match was good though it was tough since we were away and the condition of the pitch was not good but its good we managed to get something. Its hard work that enables me to score and I thank God for the good form,” the attacker with six goals for Gor this season to his name said.
K’Ogalo who will be seeking to reach the second round for the first time since 1980 face an uphill task when they take on 2012 CAF Confederations Cup winners Leopards who are a different kettle of fish to their sworn enemies Ingwe.
Gor have just two weeks to prepare before hosting Leopards in the first leg and Nuttall says it will be a tall order for his charges but will be ready for the challenge.
“We face a good side and I know a little bit of them since they have been performing well in the last five year having won the Confederations Cup and done well in their domestic league.
“It will be a big step for us and tough task at the same since they will be favorites.”
K’Ogalo who submitted a list of 19 players has a number of their new signings including defenders Karim Nzigiyimana, Abuoba Sibomana and forward Meddie Kagere who were not included in the list but the team is upbeat they will reach the group stage where they are allowed to strengthen their squad.
“Guys earlier today i proposed that a 7 member committee chaired by George bwana be formed to oversee the team’s preparation ahead of Crucial/do or die encounter against 2012 CAF Confederation Cup winners AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville.
“Happy the proposal is gaining momentum. Before I hand over to the chairman Wuod Suba.Guys kindly nominate any Gor Mahia fan you think is capable and deserve to be part of the committee….let’s be serious for once..,Its not a must that he/she be a member of this group…some are not here but can really help,” Bonny K’ochieng.
“My hearty congratulations to Gor Mahia for winning the duel with Cnaps of Madagascar and progressing to the 1st round of CAF Champions League. I wish them well as they continue with the campaign,” Ronnie Osumba.
“May I take this opportunity to congratulate the boys for the well deserved and hard fought qualifications to the next round. as we await the AC Leopards of Congo its important that we all join hands monetarily and ion kind in boosting the morale of our players and technical department. together we shall reach the sky and shall deal with them one by one,” TK K’Oriko.