NAKURU, October 17 – Sportpesa Premier League winners, Gor Mahia, kept their treble chase alive after holding champions Tusker FC 2-2 in their KPL Top 8 semi-final first leg played at Afraha Stadium on Saturday.
Stand in coach, Leonard Odipo failed to master what Francis Kimanzi who stepped aside failed to do, become the first side to stop Gor domestically this season, but a late strike from Eugine Asike gave him a huge sigh of relief after they fought back from 2-0 down.
Ali Abondo found the back of the net in the 11th minute for the opener before winning the penalty that was converted by striker Meddie Kagere in the 38th as Gor raced to a commanding advantage at the break.
Tusker skipper, Jesse Were, pulled one back for the Brewers in the 53rd after after Gor’s defence was caught off guard.
K’Ogalo head coach, Frank Nuttall who deployed midfielder Eric Ochieng at center back in the absence of Rwandese defender, Abuoba Sibomana, said the two away goals will motivate them to complete the job in the second leg.
“We are pleased to get away goals but are disappointed we did not win. We can do better to defend well in the second leg. We had a couple of chances and utilized them so I’m relatively happy.
“We have the advantage but will be looking to make sure we go through,” the Scotsman underscored after the pulsating match.
Odipo hailed the fighting spirit that saw them deny K’Ogalo and keep their defence alive from a seemingly lost cause at half time.
“Its a fair result considering the environment and demands that were in the game. We had a plan in the first half but unfortunately, it didn’t click so we had to change strategy,” Odipo, asserted.
The result left K’Ogalo on cause to break their two year jinx against the Brewers who bundled them out of the cup competition at the same stage last season.
Gor were lucky not to concede early after Harun Shakava handled Kevin Kimani corner in the box but referee, James Kagera waved Tusker’s pleas for a penalty away despite television replays showing the Harambee Stars defender’s right hand in contact with the ball.
Tusker had another chance in the seventh but Were fluffed the opportunity by failing to control a Noah Wafula pass from the left.
Gor then went ahead with their first effort on target when Abondo fired at goal from a lovely lofted pass from deep with a shot from range that was deflected in by Asike to spark celebrations among the Green Army.
Tusker sought an immediate response with Gor captain, Jerim Onyango, parrying Were’s left foot shot to deny the SportPesa Premier League top scorer the equaliser before Wafula hit the woodwork from the rebound at the quarter hour.
Lloyd Wahome came to Tusker’s rescue at the half hour when he blocked Michael Olunga’s goal-bound effort after the lethal Stars forward was played onside by Jockins Atudo’s back pass.
The Brewers woes deepened seven minutes to the interval when Wahome hacked down Abondo in the area to concede a needless penalty that was tucked in with aplomb by Kagere.
Kimani rattled the cross bar from a set piece on the stroke of half time after he was brought down at the edge of the box by Shakava to give Tusker hope as they retreated for the breather.
They came out firing in the second half with Were finally beating Onyango with a majestic curler from outside the area.
Kimani, Humphrey Mieno and Clifford Alwanga came close to drawing the Brewers level but Onyango, earning a rare start in goal ahead of Boniface Oluoch, acted as a formidable last line of defence.
But just as it looked like Gor had won the first leg, Asike popped up with a vital equalizer in the 91st when he poked home after a goalmouth melee to give Tusker the life line they deserved.
Gor are out to reclaim the trophy they last won in 2012 while Tusker will be going for a historic three peat.