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On the verge of history, Gor eye USM scalp

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Gor Mahia striker Francis Mustafa celebrates his goal against Rayon Sport during a CAF Confederations Cup tie at the Kasarani Stadium on August 18, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 28 – Gor Mahia arrived in Algiers, Algeria on Tuesday evening, just less than 24 hours before facing hosts USM Alger in a crucial CAF Confederations Cup tie, one that puts them on the doorstep of history.

Culminating in a fine season where K’Ogalo have managed to wrap up their 17th Kenyan Premier League title with six matches to spare and done considerably well on the continent, they are hugely careful not to drop the pot at the doorstep.

Gor would have wrapped up the Group Stage campaign on August 19 with at least a draw against Rayon, but the 2-1 loss at home meant they have to endure the last day jitters.

Heading into the final round of matches, Gor sit at the top with eight points, same as second placed USM Alger while Rayon are third with six while Yanga sit bottom with four points.

An outright win will mean Gor sail through to the quarter finals regardless of whatever result Rayon post against Yanga but a loss would mean they have to hope beyond hope that Yanga, who have nothing to gain or lose, produce a shock in Kigali against Yanga.

The Gor Mahia team that started their CAF Confederations Cup tie against Rayon Sport at the Kasarani Stadium on August 18, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

A draw will also see Gor progress through to the next round.

According to Rule 21 of the CAF rulebook;

“In case of a tie between more than two teams at the end of the group matches, the teams will be using the following criteria as per the order listed below:

21.1 The greatest number of points obtained in the matches between the concerned teams;

21.2 The best goal difference in the matches between the concerned teams.

21.3 The greatest number of goals scored in the matches between the concerned teams.

21.4 The greatest number of away goals scored in the matches between the concerned  

In this case,

All three teams will be tied on head to head, and the tie breaker will be on goal difference.

In this case, Gor and Rayon will go through as they will have a better goal difference than USM.

Gor Mahia head coach Dylan Kerr waves on the touchline during the CAF Confederations Cup tie against Rayon Sport at the Kasarani Stadium on August 18, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“We know it is a tough call playing in North Africa looking at the history with Kenyan clubs, but we are going there to try and run our race. We will fight to the last drop of sweat and we are prepared to do our best and get a result,” Gor Mahia head coach Dylan Kerr said ahead of the tie.

Gor ran USM close when the two sides met in the first leg and a tale of missed chances at a rain-soaked Moi Sports Centre Kasarani, never mention they had to play most of the second half with 10 men summarized their frustration.

The Kenyan champions walk into Algeria with some confidence that the Algerians are actually beatable. They beat Yanga 5-0, but the Tanzanians revenged with a shock 2-1 result in Dar es Salaam. Rayon Sport picked a point in their turf and Gor will feel they can do the same on Wednesday.

“We just need to keep to our plan and play with confidence. These players can achieve so much with the potential we have and if we get things right, we can get a result at USM. It doesn’t matter what history says,” a defiant Kerr said.

Gor’s last sojourn to North Africa was early this year in the Champions League when they lost out 1-0 to Esperance, a game that Kerr maintains they should have won.

Gor Mahia’s Jacques Tuyisenge vies for the ball with USM Alger’s Mohammed Bekhenmassa during a CAF Confederation Cup match at the Kasarani Stadium on May 16, 20`18. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

That performance coming at a time when the squad was still finding its feet in the season will be an enough confidence boost for the record Kenyan champions.

Skipper Harun Shakava has issued a rallying call to his charges.

“We have to believe in ourselves. We have a golden chance to make it to the quarters and create history. This is our chance and we will grab it,” the captain said.

Gor rested his entire first team squad for their last two league games, but the whole team had a training session at Kasarani before the derby last Sunday.

“I wanted to bring a sense of togetherness in the team to show that we are all one. Of course many people questioned my fielding for the derby, but I had a choice to make. I am hoping we will be strong and fresh to play a good game,” Kerr noted.

The tactician has tinkered with his squad with goalkeeper Fredrick Odhiambo rewarded with a place in the team after two stellar performances against Sofapaka and AFC Leopards.

With first choice keeper Boniface Oluoch returning from injury, Shabaan Odhoji who started against Yanga is dropped for the tie alongside right back Wellington Ochieng.

Gor Mahia fullback Karim Nizigiyimana passes the ball during a training session at teh Camp Toyoyo Ground on September 7, 2017. Photo/TIMOTHY OLOBULU

Karim Nizigiyimana who has played consecutive games against Chemelil, Sofapaka and AFC leopards and done well might be trusted to man the right side of defense while Philemon Otieno will keep up with his patch-up work at left back.

“We have a huge task ahead of us but I know we can do it. We have a good squad and everyone believes in himself, the coach believes in us and we have to deliver. If given a chance I will do my all on the pitch to ensure we qualify,” Nizigiyimana who has missed a considerable part of the season with injury said.

The charge for goals will be led by Jacques Tuyisenge and Francis Mustafa who combined for Gor’s lone goal against Rayon Sport.

The match will kick off at 4pm EAT, concurrently with the Rayon v Yanga tie in Kigali.

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