NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6 – Ahead of the highly anticipated Mashemeji Derby between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards on Sunday K’Ogalo skipper Musa Mohammed has urged Gor fans to maintain order and decorum, promising the players will deliver the three points against their arch rivals.
Though both last season’s derbies were hugely peaceful with AFC winning the first leg and Gor winning the second, a number of the previous meetings have ended in violence.
“At the end of the day, let it be all about the football. There are three results; either a win, draw or a loss. I want to urge our fans to come out and support the team on Sunday and let it be a peaceful game. I am certain we will have a good result and the only thing we are asking from them is their support,” Mohammed told Capital Sport ahead of the tie.
The skipper expects an end to end affair in the match and a tough test from AFC Leopards who are placed only two points below them on the Kenyan Premier League standings.
“It is a huge game, a tough one, but the players are well psyched for that particular day. The morale is so high and the focus is high. Everyone is showing the hunger in training to get into the team and play in the derby. It is the pride of every player to play in such a game,” Mohammed, one of the most experienced players in the team said.
The skipper has featured in every derby since he joined Gor and he knows a thing or two about the pressure that comes with playing against your arch rivals. He is however confident that Gor which is endowed with a bulk of experienced players will come out good.
Last season, the two sides shared a piece of the derby spoils. AFC won the first leg 1-0, putting an end to Gor Mahia’s perfect run of 35 unbeaten matches and ultimately proving to be the game that ended Frank Nuttal’s time at the club.
In the second leg though, head coach Jose ‘Marcello’ Ferreira’s first derby, K’Ogalo were in imperious form winning 2-0 with youngster Erick Marcelo Ouma, now kicking it in the Georgian top flight, putting up a man of the match performance.
Overall, over the last 16 meetings between the two giants, Gor Mahia has won seven times and drawn four, losing only five times.
In terms of current form, Gor Mahia are better, despite having lost their last match against Mathare United. In the other four, the 15-time champions have won thrice and drawn once. AFC on the other hand have won two, lost a similar number and drawn one of their last five games.
AFC head coach Stewart Hall though is unfazed at the weight of the derby but admits it is an important fixture for his side to win.
“I have been in so many derbies before and playing with Simba and Yanga with all due respect I think is bigger than this.. Getting 50, 60,000 crowds screaming every time is insane. But I know this is a huge fixture and we are ready to give our best and win,” noted the coach.
He is boosted with the return to full fitness of striker Mungai Kiongera. The forward who played for Gor Mahia on a one-season-long loan deal from KCB played 45 minutes of last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Posta Rangers and will be in line for a first start in over six weeks.
Hall might also be lured into throwing Dennis Sikhayi in despite the right wingback having returned to training just this week after being out for a month with a broken metatarsal.
With both teams playing a similar 3-5-2 formation, it will be one huge tactical battle between the two experienced coaches. Gor’s strength this season has been their wingbacks with Karim Nizigiyimana and Godfrey Walusimbi causing all sorts of troubles with their forays upfront.
Comparing them to AFC’s wingbacks, the two have an edge. If Dennis Sikhayi will not be ready yet to play, Hall might either switch to the traditional 4-4-2 and employ one of his centre-backs there, or continue playing Andrew Tololwa.
But with Walusimbi’s pace and strength on the left side of Gor’s attack and Tololwa’s not-so-perfect defensive prowess, then Gor might find a loophole.
AFC have had their strength in midfield with Duncan Otieno and Bernard Mang’oli forming a solid partnership while Whyvonne Isuza has slotted perfectly well ahead of them to complete the diamond that has rotated them this season.
AFC’s centre-backs Robinson Kamura and Salim ‘Shittu’ Abdallah, bith pre-season buys have also done commendably well especially their prowess in dealing with aerial balls.
Gor might go top of the table with three points in the derby, if leaders Posta Rangers who are two points ahead drop points when they face Sofapaka at the Afraha Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Rangers are the only unbeaten team this season and they will be eager to maintain the record.
Elsewhere, defending champions Tusker FC will face Kakamega Homeboyz at their Ruaraka backyard on Saturday afternoon.
KPL weekend fixtures.
Saturday: Posta Rangers v Sofapaka (Afraha Stadium, Nakuru), Chemelil Sugar v Muhoroni Youth (Chemelil Complex), Tusker FC v Kakamega Homeboyz (Ruaraka Complex).
Sunday: AFC Leopards v Gor Mahia (Nyayo Stadium), Thika United v Ulinzi Stars (Thika Stadium), Western Stima v Zoo Kericho (Moi Stadium, Kisumu).