NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 23- Meddie Kagere and Enock Agwanda scored in the second half as Kenyan Premier League defending champions Gor Mahia put their title hopes back on track with a 2-0 win over arch rivals AFC Leopards at Nyayo Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With league leaders Tusker FC drawing 1-1 against Nairobi City Stars, Gor are now four points behind the brewers and another slip up by the Ruaraka based side coupled by a win by the holders will put them strongly in contention.
It was a sweet way for Gor to bounce back against their arch rivals despite a nine-minute stoppage due to crowd unrest and they will now hope for a complete turn over in the remaining three games of the season.
Gor Mahia head coach Jose Marcelo Ferreira had made changes to the squad that played in midweek against Western Stima.
Karim Nzigiyimana returned to the right side of defense replacing Wellington Ochieng while Collins ‘Gattuso’ Okoth made his first start in over three months coming in for Anthony ‘Baggio’ Mbugua.
The combative Okoth partnered Godfrey Walusimbi in midfield, giving Francis Kahata a free role of roving in front of a three-prone attack that had George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo, Jacques Tuyisenge and Meddie Kagere.
AFC’s Ezekiel Akwana started up with Cresten Mwanzo on the left of defense starting ahead of Yussuf Juma while Eugene Ambulwa partnered Joshua Mawira in central defense in the absence of Jackson Saleh.
In midfield, Malian Mousa Sissoko partnered Bernard Ongoma and Andrew Tololwa with Mungai Kiongera and Kepha Aswani leading the attack.
Both teams put up a hand-brake-on, laid back approach in the opening half as none had a single shot on target, the closest being a Jacques Tuyisenge header that came off the underside of the bar late in the half.
Gor had the earliest chance of the game in the third minute but couldn’t convert. George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo broke away on the left before laying in a low cross which both Tuyisenge and Meddie Kagere attacked at the near post, but lack of communication between the two saw the ball end up wide from Tuyisenge’s mild touch.
The hosts, AFC Leopards had their first opportunity of the match in the ninth minute with Mungai Kiongera’s well taken volley after the ball was chested down by Kepha Aswani went inches wide off Boniface Oluoch’s goal.
Left back Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma took a drive from deep his own half in the 11th minute, evading two Ingwe players but his eventual grass cutter went inches wide.
None of the two sides opened up, each playing with utmost caution but Gor pressing the more. Okoth had asserted his authority well in the middle of the pack, doing well to break down most of the AFC Leopards attacks.
Gor were nearly caught out on the half hour mark after Ouma started a freekick short to his captain Musa Mohammed who was not looking at the ball.
However, keeper Boniface Oluoch managed to move swiftly off his line to pick the ball off Aswani’s feet as he tried to dribble past him.
A minute later, a sweet interchange of passes from the midfield between Diarra, Aswani and Kiongera saw the latter break into the box but Nizigiyimana managed to track back and poke the ball off for a corner.
On the opposite end, Odhiambo’s shot from the left hit the side netting after being put through by Kagere with the green half of the stadium rising in rapturous jubilation, thinking the ball was in.
In the second minute of added time, Tuyisenge’s header from a Walusimbi corner came off the inside of the bar and cleared away as Gor ended the half on a high.
The reigning league champions came back into the second half breathing venom and they pushed Leopards into their own half.
George Odhiambo’s header was cleared off the line in the 54th minute after he headed strongly from the edge of the six yard box from a Walusimbi corner. A minute later his stinging shot from 25 yards went wide as Gor upped the ante.
The early pressure was rewarded in the 64th minute when Tuyisenge was brought down inside the box by Eugene Ambulwa after racing into the box. Kagere stepped up to send Indeche the wrong way and banish a three month dry spell of goals.
A section of disgruntled Ingwe fans threatened to half the match with police lobbing tear gas cannisters but after a nine minute stoppage the game resumed.
Gor still played at high gear and Tuyisenge came close in the 80th minute with his header from an Ouma cross going just wide.
Akwana then made two changes, bringing on Yussuf Suf and Alfred Wekesa for Simon Abuko and Aswani.
But instead of bringing in some equalizing pressure, Gor punched another hole into Ingwe hearts with the second goal, substitute Enock Agwanda who had come on for Okoth slotting the ball home from close range after an Ouma cross on the right with six minutes of regulation time to go.
To consolidate the win, Ferreira pulled out Kagere for defender Wellington Ochieng to bulk up the numbers at the rear and ensure the win was sealed.