NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18 – Gor Mahia would have been playing Champions League group stage football this weekend, had they avoided conceding a sticky away goal in their home leg tie against Nigeria’s Lobi Stars in the first round last month.
Gor won the first leg 3-1 in Nairobi, but ended up losing 2-0 in the return tie played in Enugu a week later, thus bowing out on the away goal rule.
The record Kenyan champions find themselves in an almost similar situation as they travelled to Cameroon Friday morning for the return leg of their CAFG Confederations Cup play-off round against New Star de Douala in Limbe.
Gor won the first leg 2-1 in Nairobi, but with a loss as slim as 1-0 in Limbe, their dream of making a second group stage appearance in the competition will be stifled.
But, head coach Hassan Oktay is not worried.
“I am not worried at all. I know we will go there and play good football and we can win. I believe we are going to dominate the game there. The team is coming up strongly, getting better and better. I have no worries,” the tactician said of his team’s readiness for the Sunday evening tie.
If Gor can avoid defeat in Cameroon, then they will guarantee themselves a slot for Monday’s group stage draw, and they are more encouraged by New Star’s poor record at home.
Oktay says he expects a tough duel, but maintains his charges are focused on getting the job done.
Gor picked up a healthy 4-1 win over Mount Kenya in midweek, despute the fact that he had to heavily rotate his squad and preserve most of his first team players for Sunday’s assignment. The tactician believes they are mentally and physical ready.
This even as the tactician has complained of the team’s lack of good pre-season preparations and has launched a tirade against former head coach Dylan Kerr claiming he did not develop the team.
“Pre-season for players is very important. It takes them through 15, 16 games but our players didn’t do pre-season. Last year’s style of training didn’t help develop the players; small sided games are not good. What the Brazilians did before was a great job, but last year they didn’t develop. They went backwards,” Oktay claimed.
Despite his claims though, Gor had a hugely successful 2018 where they reached the group stages of the Confederations Cup for the first time ever and successfully defended their title with six games to spare despite a terrible fixture pile up.
Gor also defended their SportPesa Super Cup title and reached the semis of the CECAFA Kagame Cup where they clinched bronze.
Their pre-season wasn’t all that successful as most of their post-season was concentrated on preparing for the trip to England where they played a friendly match against Premier League side Everton FC.
Just like all teams due to the transitional season, there wasn’t enough time for rest and recovery as well as a good pre-season period.
At the same time, the tactician has warned striker Ephraim Guikan to work harder or risk losing his place in the team. The striker was substituted after 41 minutes against Mount Kenya and headed straight to the dressing room, a reaction that wasn’t pleasing to the Cypriot coach.
“He knows he needs to work harder. One of my philosophies is that everyone has to work. We gonna talk about this, first time I saw this, we will address it and I can manage it easily, this is not a big problem for me,” the tactician stated.