NAIROBI, November 4 – Sensational forward Michael ‘Engineer’ Olunga scored twice to send SportPesa Premier League Champions Gor Mahia to the KPL Top 8 final, following their 2-1 second leg victory over holders 10-manTusker FC on Wednesday night at Nyayo National Stadium.
It was a sweet revenge for K’Ogalo who face Sony Sugar in Saturday’s decider in Kisumu, after the Brewers eliminated them at the same stage in the previous two seasons.
Tusker Old boy, Olunga returned to haunt his former side when he gave his side a lifeline with a 53rd equaliser before sealing the win 20 minutes later to enable unstoppable Gor progress with a narrow 4-3 aggregate win after a 2-2 stalemate in the first leg.
However, centre referee Amos Ichingwa was put on the spot on some of the decisions he made including sending off Tusker’s Clifford Alwanga for a second bookable offence in the 38th minute when the Brewers were leading 1-0 courtesy of Kevin Kimani’s ninth minute opener.
Gor head coach, Frank Nuttall said they were under no pressure going to the match since they were carrying two away goals advantage.
“It was close for a while but our second half performance was good considering we had played seven games in 18 days. We had no pressure since we had the two goal away advantage.
“It took time for us to wake up when they went down one man and I’m glad with the boy’s mentality to win,” Nuttall underlined in a post match interview.
Tusker interim head coach, Leonard Odipo who was looking to lead his team to a record three peat, stated luck was not on their side but was positive they will bounce back next season if he is given the job that was left vacant after Francis Kimanzi’s departure.
“We lost the game when we went a man down since we could not control the tempo. Playing against Gor when you are 11 is difficult but playing them when you are 10 is dangerous.
“I don’t know if Alwanga deserved a red card, I have to see the replay but that was the decision of referee maybe he has a better view of it. We had to go for the kill but unfortunately lack was not on our side. At this point we just want to congratulate Gor,” Odipo outlined.
In a tempered first half that was dominated by hard tackles, Ichingwa stole the limelight when he brandished a controversial second yellow card on Alwanga who brought down Khalid Aucho, with replays in the live televised match showing the former KCB man had no contact on the Ugandan.
This was after Kimani was booked for protesting when he was hacked down by Aucho as the referee ignored his plea only to turn back to him.
Being the only silverware they were chasing this season, Tusker set the bar high when they tested the character of the Kings of Kenyan football.
Kimani broke the deadlock when he picked up a Jesse Were defence splitting cross to easily tap home past keeper, Boniface Oluoch who was the only change for skipper, Jerim Onyango from the team that played in first leg.
Noah Wafula’s attempt to double the lead was thwarted at the quarter hour mark as Gor chased the game before defender Eugene Asike was cautioned after obstructing Olunga who was man-marked in the entire 45 minutes.
Nuttall introduced Godfrey Walusimbi for ineffective George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo to push Innocent Wafula upfront as the Ugandan reverted to his left back position.
K’Ogalo made good use of Tusker’s one man less to dominate the second half with Ali Abondo coming close just on the restart but keeper, Martin Musalia rescued the threat from a corner.
Gor finally restored parity when Walusimbi headed back to Olunga who did well to control the ball before turning to fire home with his favourite left foot from close range.
Abondo, Kagere and Aucho came close but none of them could double the scores to wait late for Olunga who nailed the final nail on Tusker’s coffin when he picked a poor back-pass from second half substitute Ronald Musana to drive in his second.
Humphrey Mieno nearly drew the Brewers level a minute later but his effort came off the woodwork in the last chance of the game.
The win kept Gor’s hopes of clinching a treble alive to add on the DSTVSuper Cup they bagged in the beginning of the season after edging out Sofapaka 2-1 in a season opener curtain raiser.