NAIROBI, Kenya, May 4- On March 6, 2016, he famously broke Gor Mahia’s Kenyan Premier League unbeaten run with a 1-0 win at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani courtesy of a Lamin Dialo goal, a result that consequently led to former head coach Frank Nuttall leaving the club.
But when Ivan Minnaert meets K’Ogalo two years later, this time with a different employer, he knows only too well chances of him finishing the 90 minutes on a celebratory mood might be minimal as he admits he faces a tougher opponent.
The Belgian tactician will lead Rwandese giants Rayon Sports on Sunday evening when they take on Gor at the Stade Regional Nyamirambo in Kigali, Rwanda in their first Group D match of the CAF Confederation Cup.
“I have followed Gor Mahia and their progress and they are a very tough team. They have a squad that has been together for four or five seasons and they have become very solid. It will not be an easy match against them and I have told my players that,” Minnaert told Capital Sport from his base in Kigali.
“This is a battle of East African teams which have almost a similar style of football and it will make things even tougher,” he added.
Starting their campaign at home though, Rayon who are also making their maiden appearance in the group stages of the Confederation Cup have vowed to kick start their campaign with a win.
“We have to start well because we want to excel in this competition. Obviously Sunday will be tough because both teams want to begin on a high, but we have the advantage since we are at home. We have to put a marker on our campaign and that means a win,” the Belgian further stated.
-Key players racing for fitness-
However, the tactician is worried that some of his key players are facing a race to be fit for the clash, but remains optimistic he will have some of them available.
“Against a team like Gor, you always want to field the strongest team. It is a small worry but possibly we can have some of them back,” the coach noted.
Minnaert just recently signed a new contract with the club after guiding them to their first ever Confederation Cup group stage appearance having taken over on interim basis in February.
He is out to ensure the club leaves a mark on continental football and he is optimistic that they can get off the group if they put in a shift of hard work.
“It is a possibility but from a very tough group. Gor Mahia and Yanga are tough regional rivals and it will not be easy both home and away. USM Alger are an experienced side and their strength is known having played at this stage before,” the coach further noted.
Rayon, who contribute a huge chunk of players to the Rwandese national team, dropped to the Confederations Cup after losing to South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns in the Champions League first round.
They are currently third in the Rwanda Premier League standings on 35 points out of 18 matches, three points behind leaders AS Kigali. They have not lost over their last five games picking three wins and two draws.
Their last league tie was against 12th placed Kirehe where they came from a goal down to draw 1-1. At home in the Confederation Cup, they beat Mozambican side Costa De Sol 3-0 in the play-off round and advanced despite a 2-0 loss away.
Their last loss in the league was against arch rivals APR in February. That was their first loss at home in three years, the last time having tasted defeat at their Nyamirambo pitch being in September 2015 when they lost to AS Kigali.
They went on to pick a run of 37 matches without losing at home, drawing 11 of those. They have conceded 19 goals from those 37 games.
“We have had a strong record at home and definitely that is what we will rely on and we want to continue the tradition,” coach Minnaert noted.