NAIROBI, Kenya, July 17- Boniface Oluoch pulled a man of the match performance, making crucial saves as Kenyan Premier League defending champions Gor Mahia settled for a goalless draw against Ushuru at Nyayo Stadium on Sunday.
The record 15-time league champions failed to take advantage of league leaders Tusker FC’s slip to close down the gap after the Brewers were held to a 2-2 draw at home against Chemelil in the early kick off.
Oluoch was the busiest of the two keepers in the opening half and he solely kept Gor in the game at a time when Luke Ochieng had one of the games to forget in his career.
The former KCB man had been called up to replace the absent Harun Shakava partnering Musa Mohammed at the heart of defense, but the pace of the Ushuru forward men proved too much for him to handle most of the time.
In the 17th minute, former AFC Leopards forward Lamin Dialo, who has already scored against Gor Mahia this season, powered through the right past Ochieng but the final decision to try and dink the ball over Oluoch from a tight angle failed to tick when he had better options begging for the ball inside the six yard box.
A minute later, Oluoch was called into his first save of the match, going down well to keep out a shot from Kennedy Oduor inside the box after Eric Mata had won the ball and fed the midfielder.
Dialo won another contest with Ochieng in the 20th minute, this time showing sheer strength to muscle the defender off the ball, dink a bit to his right past Musa Mohammed but Oluoch pulled off a full stretched save to keep out his low shot.
Gor had struggled to make out anything moving upfront and Ushuru’s defensive display managed to keep out the deadly attacking duo of Meddie Kagere and Jacques Tuyisenge.
Kagere though managed to sneak into the near post from an Amos Nondi corner, but his header under pressure from Jackson Onjala went wide.
Tuyisenge was put through by George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo with a superb through ball in the 33rd minute, but the Ushuru defense managed to close him down quick enough before he had the ball on his feet, forcing him to set up Nondi.
The youngster though saw his goal bound effort blocked by the defense though keeper Shabaan Odhoji had it covered.
Ushuru would have ended the half on a high but Aziz Okaka wasted a glorious opportunity after shooting straight at Oluoch with the keeper down having had a soft palm on a Rogers Ochieng cross, the ball landing on Okaka.
At the start of the second period, Gor coach brought on Baron Oketch for the injured ‘Blackberry’ while Ken Kenyatta responded by offloading Eric Mata for Liberian Rosevelt Blaty.
Ushuru picked up with the same tempo they had in the opening 45 minutes and Oluoch once again thwarted their efforts in the 56th minute with a superb save off Diallo.
Ushuru had launched a quick counter attack with Philemon Otieno picking out Diallo who broke into the box, but Oluoch managed to narrow down the angle and spread his body nicely to prevent the ball from going into the back of the net.
The absence of Khalid Aucho who left the club in June for trials in Scotland was visible as the defending champions lacked their usual flair and free flowing transition from defense to attack.
In the final 15 minutes, Gor upped the ante, throwing pressure into the Ushuru half and forcing them to play on the back foot.
An intended cross which turned out to be a shot on target almost caught Odhoji off guard, but the custodian managed to backtrack and tip the ball onto the crossbar.
Wafula picked up the loose ball and his intended cross was almost turned into an own goal by Ngaira, but lucky for him the ball flew wide.
Gor would have snatched it late though but Odhoji pulled off a superb one on one save to deny Kagere after the Rwandese striker dinked past his markers inside the box.