NAIROBI, September 16 – It took 26 games and 93 minutes for unbeaten Gor Mahia to be crowned champions for a record 15th time after humbling visitors Sony Sugar 1-0 in a pulsating SportPesa Premier League played under floodlights on Wednesday night.
Winger, Innocent Wafula was the hero of the hour for K’Ogalo with the decisive strike in the 38th minute to spark scenes of delirium that spilled to Nairobi’s Central Business District after the match as the Green Army celebrated with abandon being declared kings of the domestic top flight in what is becoming an annual ritual.
“I’m absolutely thrilled by the performance of the team. There was only one team with desire to win a football match to win the championship. It’s fantastic for the club, for the fans, players, staff, committee and chairman- they have been excellent under difficult circumstances- and everyone connected to the club,” an ecstatic head coach, Frank Nutall, mobbed by screaming supporters, said post-match.
The trophy presentation where K’Ogalo get to keep the big eared trophy will be done in the final home game of the season against Muhoroni Youth with the Scotsman now focused on the task of completing the campaign unbeaten to earn the ‘Invincibles’ tag.
“It’s not so important to me. Other things may come along but our goal is to celebrate and recover for the next game and everything will be as usual,” he underlined amid manic celebrations in clear Nairobi skies.
Whatever happens between now and end season, the class of 2015 have entered the annals of K’Ogalo and Kenya’s football history, emulating the great side of 83, 84 and 85 that completed three successive domestic crowns.
Only arch rivals AFC Leopards (1981-83) and Ulinzi Stars (2003-05) have achieved the same feat but Gor shaded them by being the first double-treble successive league champions to stretch their all-time record to 15- fittingly, against a side known as ‘Gor-B’ from Awendo.
The champions-elect entered the match needing a point to emulate their three-peat forerunners and their determination was evident from the off when they dominated Sony, at times with champagne football as they ran rings around their dazed opponents who looked like rabbits in the headlights.
In the end, the Cecafa Kagame Cup beaten finalists stretched their haul to 65 points, a milestone for the storied club in the KPL era and 15 ahead of closest challengers Ulinzi Stars to effectively snuff out the slim mathematical stake they had on the crown following the barren draw on Sunday in Nakuru.
Western Stima, Sofapaka, Tusker and Muhoroni Youth will therefore, provide the guard of honour to simply, the best side on the land in the remaining games in a title procession with whatever result acting as a footnote to their season of sheer dominance.
Perhaps in a reflection of the financial woes that have dogged the side that is yet to secure a sponsor over the last two seasons, floodlight failure at Nyayo in the 13th minute threatened briefly to rain on their title parade but after five agonising minutes, the power was back on to illuminate the night of the champions.
To the game. K’Ogalo spurned six opportunities before finding the opener after Michael ‘Engineer ‘ Olunga and former crowd idol, George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo who was the only change in the side for Eric Ochieng, set about Sony with menace.
The most glaring was in the seventh when Odhiambo danced his way past the Sony defence reminiscent of his annual mirabilis of 2010 only for him to get carried away with the Salsa dance in the box to produce a pitiful finish.
The hosts continued where they left when the lights came back on when Olunga fluffed an open chance after failing to get to a Meddie Kagere delivery after Wafula started the build up with a lovely through pass.
Wafula took responsibility to break the deadlock six minutes to the breather after expertly side-footing past Sony keeper, Allan Owiny from a Godfrey Walusimbi in swinger from the left which Kagere totally missed to give his side the lead.
On resumption, Olunga was denied by the post with his weaker right foot after Odhiambo did well to find him.
Marwa Chamberi almost muted the celebratory mood in the stands when he came within a whisker of the leveller in the 68th after Gor’s back-line lost concentration but the long-serving Sony forward wasted Justine Monda cross by heading feebly to the on-rushing keeper, Boniface Oluoch.
Both sides made changes with former Gor striker, Herbert Kopany coming on for Chamberi for the cane cutters while Nuttall withdrew Odhiambo for Enock Agwanda.
K’Ogalo suffered a blow in the 84th after Uganda Cranes midfielder, Khalid Aucho was stretched off after picking a knock to be replaced by Collins Okoth.
But that mattered little on the night when the final whistle blew to kick-start an almighty party among the Green Army who knew it was a matter of when, not if, their beloved K’Ogalo would be crowned the best in the land yet again.
The club will now take their pride of place once again among the high table of the continent as Kenya’s representative at next year’s CAF Champions League as well as the regional showpiece, Cecafa Kagame Club Championships where they will be aiming to go one better.
GOR MARCH TO RECORD 15TH TITLE
21/02/15 Gor Mahia 4 – 2 Mathare United
19/03/15 Gor Mahia 2 – 1 Bandari
22/03/15 Gor Mahia 3 – 1 Chemelil
08/04/15 Gor Mahia 3 – 1 KCB
12/04/15 Leopards 1 – 1 Gor Mahia
15/04/15 Nairobi City Stars 0 – 3 Gor Mahia
19/04/15 Gor Mahia 0 – 0 Sofapaka
26/04/15 Ushuru 0 – 2 Gor Mahia
02/05/15 Gor Mahia 2 – 0 Ulinzi Stars
06/05/15 Sony Sugar 0 – 1 Gor Mahia
10/05/15 Western Stima 0 – 0 Gor Mahia
17/05/15 Gor Mahia 5 – 0 Nakuru AllStars
24/05/15 Muhoroni Youth 0 – 1 Gor Mahia
01/06/15 Thika United 0 – 2 Gor Mahia
06/06/15 Gor Mahia1 – 0 Tusker
27/06/15 Chemelil 1 – 4 Gor Mahia
08/07/15 Gor Mahia 2 – 0 Thika United
12/07/15 Mathare United 1 – 1 Gor Mahia
09/08/15 KCB 1 – 6 Gor Mahia
12/08/15 Gor Mahia 2 – 0 Ushuru
15/08/15 Gor Mahia 3 – 1 Nairobi City Stars
19/08/15 Nakuru AllStars 1 – 1 Gor Mahia
23/08/15 Gor Mahia 2 – 0 Leopards
29/08/15 Bandari 1 – 2 Gor Mahia
13/09/15 Ulinzi Stars 0 – 0 Gor Mahia
16/09/15 Gor Mahia 1-0 Sony Sugar