NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11- Kenyan Premier League champions Tusker FC began their CAF Champions League campaign on a wrong footing after being held to a 1-1 draw by Mauritian champions AS Port Louis in the preliminary round first leg match played at the Moi Sports Center Kasarani Stadium on Saturday.
Ephrem Guikan equalized for the Mauritians three minutes after the restart with Ugandan international Shafik Batambuze having given Tusker a first half lead.
The Kenyan champions were nowhere near their best and struggled to assert their authority in the game.
Conceding an away goal will be headache for the Brewers as they head for the return leg with their hopes of making the group stages now dangling.
Until Batambuze’s goal in the 29th minute, none of the two teams had really stamped their feet into the game. Tusker’s though had an early chance in the second minute with Noah Wafual’s volley from the right going inches wide after being flicked through by Humphrey Mieno.
The visitors did well to possess the ball and pass around, but they did not do much to trouble David Okello in the Tusker goal. The shot stopper was left untested in the entire opening 45 minutes of the match.
Tusker’s lack of competitive match fitness was evident especially as they lacked the desire to push upfront and grab a goal.
Allan Wanga had an effort from a free kick which was deflected off the wall and the Port Louis keeper Luther Murphy Rose managed to fist it wide.
Tusker got the opener with Batambuze swinging a free kick from the left straight into the net. Mieno should have made it 2-0 almost immediately but his effort from a volley at the edge of the box went wide.
But right at the start of the second half, the visitors had their first effort on target and it ended up being their only goal in the match. Ephrem Guikan hit the ball home from a rebound after David Okello spilled a shot from Andrisoa Raniandranasana who had taken on three of his markers before shooting low.
Rather than try to guard their precious away goal by defending in numbers and keeping the ball, Port Louis resorted to time-wasting tactics, going down by the slightest of touches.
Tusker though did not have the key to unlock the firepower upfront and most of their balls never bore any danger.
Batambuze came close with another from his curling corners but the effort went against the upright, forcing Tusker head coach George ‘Best’ Nsimbe into his first sub after 55th minute after Danson Kago limped off following a thigh injury and new signing Victor Ndinya was brought in.
Wafula was also withdrawn for Mike Khamati as Nsimbe went all out offensive, seeking to get the second goal that would return the advantage to the home side.
Ten minutes from time, Tusker survived a scare to go down by a second goal, Batambuze making a superb tackle to deny Raniandranasana who was preparing to pull the trigger unmarked inside the box after picking up a pass from Guikan.
Despite Tusker piling pressure, they could not get the winner and should now win or draw by at least two goals in the return leg.