NAIROBI, July 24 – Kenyan Premier League champions, Gor Mahia added the gloss to US President, Barrack Obama homecoming on Friday by advancing to the quarter-finals of the Cecafa Kagame Cup after a gritty 1-1 draw with Sudan’s Al-Khartoum at the Dar-es-Salaam National Stadium.
K’ogalo, went down after only seven minutes when Ousmalia Baba capitalized on Harambee Stars keeper, Boniface Oluoch error but Eric Ochieng levelled matters on the 42nd to see both sides still top of Group A on seven points apiece.
Ochieng who returned to the starting line-up gave Gor the point that sees the battle to top the group go down to the final round of preliminaries.
K’Ogalo have the easier task of nailing top spot since they will meet whipping boys, Djibouti Telcom with Al Khartoum facing wounded home giants Yanga FC who have all to play for to advance.
The self-styled ‘Commander General’ of the Green Army, Jaro Soja, send a special message US President Obama who was expected to touch down in Nairobi hours after the game in tribute to the most powerful man in the world with Kenyan roots.
Soja, real name Jared Omondi, had a banner decorated with Obama and club patron, Raila Odinga’s images written “Tell Obama to sponsor Gor Mahia”, alluding to their lack of a title sponsor for the second successive season after their deal with Milk product, Tuzo elapsed.
Both sides entered the crunch encounter level on six points after two opening pool victories each but it was former Ghana head coach, Kwesi Appiah’s Al-Khartoum who held on to maintain their lead on a superior goal difference.
Gor head coach, Frank Nuttall made adjustments that saw the return of midfielder, Collins Okoth who came on for Ali Abondo in his first match since picking a knock in their last Kenyan Premier League match against Mathare United.
Ochieng replaced injured Godfrey Walusimbi in the midfield while winger Innocent Wafula returned to the starting line-up for Ronald Omino.
The first opening half was a balanced affair although it was K’Ogalo who created more chances, having four shots on target against Khartoum’s three with the opening goal coming early to pile pressure on high flying Gor.
Oluoch who has conceded three goals so far in the tournament, gifted the Sudanese after he spilled a cross from the right in front of Baba who did well to squeeze the ball to an empty net for the opener.
Michael Olunga who has been on top of his game in the tournament came close on four occasions but could not find the back of the net for his fourth .
The lanky Engineering Student from Technical University of Kenya, should have netted the equaliser on the 16th, but screwed the ball wide from an Abondo cross from the right instead of heading.
Atif Khalid El Tayeb almost punished K’Ogalo after a good build up from the right to break up the defence but he was denied by the side post as Karim Niizigiyimana cleared the rebound.
It was then end to end action; with Olunga beating two defenders but his final execution was poor to allow Khartoum keeper, Adil El Taher to pick the ball easily.
Moments later, Samawai Merghani brilliantly nicked the ball out of Olunga’s powerful left foot after weaving through defenders at the half hour mark before Ochieng headed home a Khalid Aucho cross to restore matters on the stroke of half-time.
Appiah’s boys returned re-energized with El Tayeb squandering a glorious chance for the lead when he rounded skipper Musa Mohammed only to blaze over with just Oluoch to beat.
Gor’s first attempt on the restart came in the 53rd when Wafula forced stretched the keeper to tip over a dangerous cross.
Appiah, introduced former Gor holding midfielder, Anthony Akumu for El Tayeb whilst his counterpart, Nuttall pulled out Abondo for Okoth.
The changes did not have much effect on both sides although Mohammed Hassan could have killed the game when he was put through on the dying minutes but Oluoch did well to come off his line to clear the danger with his left foot.
K’Ogalo will be seeking to run a cricket score against Telcom on Sunday in their final preliminary match and hope Al- Khartoum lose to Tanzania giants, Young Africa to top Group A.