NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16- Ten-man Gor Mahia was held to a barren draw by Algerian side USM Alger in a Group D CAF Confederation Cup tie staged at a soggy Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on Wednesday night.
The 16-time Kenyan Premier League champions had to play over 35 minutes of the match with one man less after defender Joash Onyango was sent off for a second yellow card, but they managed to hold their own and even had chances to win the clash.
It was the same old story for K’Ogalo as they created many open scoring opportunities but they couldn’t finish any of them, settling for their second consecutive draw in the competition.
It wasn’t the best of evenings for both clubs before the tie.
Huge traffic along the Thika Super Highway saw the two teams arrive in the stadium late, an hour to kick-off and they had to contend with less than 15 minutes of warm up on the pitch.
Officials of both teams had to disembark from their vehicles to open up the congested highway, seeing them arrive in the stadium a few minutes past 6pm.
The conditions on the pitch were not helping either. Heavy rains that had hit the city for close to two hours in the evening saw the newly laid ground fail to hold and at times the players had difficulty moving the ball around the pitch.
But it was the visitors who had a faster start to the tie.
Winger Abderahmane Meziane was a constant threat for the Gor backline with his pace and trickery on the ball and just three minutes in, he had shouts for a penalty assumed by the referee when he went down inside the box from a Joash Onyango challenge.
On the other end, Gor had their first effort at goal seven minutes into the game when George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo turned to his favorite right foot from the left side of the pitch but his rising shot was no trouble for USM goalkeeper Mohamed Lamine.
In the 14th minute, USM’s Ayub Abdellaoui made a superb tackle at the edge of the box to pluck the ball away from Ephraim Guikan as the Ivorian surged forward on goal from a sleek Odhiambo through pass.
The visitors had started with the tempo high but seemed to tire as the game progressed, with Gor picking up the cue and building up the tempo passing the ball around the park well.
A sweeping team move from Gor in the 22nd minute almost bore fruit for the opener but Guikan’s glancing header was saved by the keeper.
The Ivorian adjusted his body well from a tight angle to swing the ball at goal after being picked out with a well weighted cross from Godfrey Walusimbi.
On the half hour mark, Gor should have surely been ahead.
An interchange of passes on the right wing saw the ball fall on the impressive Francis Kahata and the left footed player took a first time cross into the box with his weaker right, landing on an unmarked Odhiambo.
However, the winger’s header was stopped by a brilliant save from Lamine and the rebound blasted against the upright.
On the other end, USM had penalty appeals ignored by the ref again, though this time he seemed to have thought about it with the whistle headed to his mouth after the ball seemed to have knocked Kahata’s arms as he controlled defending a freekick inside the box.
A minute to the break, Guikan had another chance when his connection at the near post from a Walusimbi delivery was blocked for a corner.
Just like they did in the first, the visitors had a better second half start and four minutes in, an unmarked Rafik Bouderbal saw his volley from the right go over.
In the eighth minute, Alger had an even closer chance when Faouzi Yaya’s shot after dancing past a forest of legs in the box was blocked and Mohammed Meftah’s effort from the rebound went inches wide with Boniface Oluoch beaten.
Gor’s drive was hugely punctured in the 55th minute when Oluoch was booked for the second time in the game after shoving down Yaya on the right.
Kerr’s reaction was to shift Mieno into central defense while Tuyisenge dropped deeper into midfield leaving Guikan as the lone attacker.
The visitors responded with an attacking change, Oualid Ardji replacing Bouderbal in attack. They had a few minutes of dominance, but again, it was Gor who pulled up double the effort.
They had a brilliant scoring opportunity in the 66th minute which once again went to waste. Tuyisenge’s shot from distance was spilled by the goalkeeper and the Rwandese raced to the rebound but took too many touches on the ball, allowing the defense to race back and clear.
Francis Kahata had another effort minutes later with a low shot from the right which was deflected for a corner.
On the other end, Mohammed Benyahia almost caught Boniface Oluoch off his line with a shot from distance, but the effort went wide.