NAKURU, Kenya, Feb 17 – Samuel Onyango’s 24th minute goal was enough to see defending champions Gor Mahia hit Sofapaka 1-0 at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on Sunday afternoon to snap John Baraza’s winning run at the helm of the 2009 champions.
Gor who arrived from their CAF Confederations Cup assignment in Luanda, Angola just 48 hours earlier didn’t let the little gremlins of fatigue catch up with them, even despite arriving at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru late and warming up for barely 25 minutes.
The holders picked up three vital points that hoisted them to third in the standings with 25 points, three behind leaders Bandari FC and a one-match at hand awaiting them on Wednesday.
Off a well crafted counter attack in the 24th minute, the defending champions had booked themselves a lead. Kenneth Muguna emgineered the move from deep in Gor’s half after turning over possession, sending Jacques Tuyisenge away with a delightful chip.
The Rwandese forward galloped forward and teed up Samwel Onyango who beat keeper Justin Ndikumana with a low shot.
The on form Sofapaka had sought to have a good start just like the one they had against Mathare United last Tuesday, keeping possession and trying to open up the Gor Mahia backline with little through passes and swift running behind the defense.
In the 10th minute, Elli Asieche picked the ball up at the edge of the box off a poorly defended long throw, but his shot was deflected for a corner.
Seven minutes later, Sofapaka had another glorious opportunity when Joash Onyango failed to clear a cross from George Maelo and Umaru Kassumba picked it up, but his low shot from the edge of the area went inches wide.
But Gor were slowly growing into the game and were creating chances. In the 21st minute, they broke off the counter with Francis Kahata releasing Onyango on the left, but Sofapaka defender Maelo stretched out his boot to tap the ball away for a corner.
Two minutes later, Gor won a freekick at the edge of the box after Maelo handled, but Shafik Batambuze swung it just inches over the bar.
Nonetheless, the reigning champions finally broke the deadlock after 24 minutes, Onyango booting home after a sweeping move.
Sofapaka should have drawn back level with back to back chances after conceding. In the 26th minute, the industrious Avire teed up Brian Magonya inside the box, but the midfielder ould not hit a strong shot with Fredrick Odhiambo gathering.
A minute later, Avire came to the end of a well delivered setpiece from Elli Asieche, but the striker’s header glanced inches wide.
Sofapaka pushed hard to get back level, but a strong backline denied them.
At the stroke of halftime, Muguna should have taken Gor two up when a well delivered cross from Philemon Otieno found him isolated at the backpost, but he could not connect his header on target.
At the start of the second half, Sofapaka were forced into a change, Magonya failing to get back after picking an injury in the first half and was replaced by Ibrahim Kitawi. Ten minutes later, they brought in Stephen Waruru for Mutamba.
But it was Gor who still had the game’s best chances and on the hour mark, Nicholas Kipkurui should have surely made it 2-0 when a well weighted cross from Onyango found him unmarked at the edge of the six yard box, but he headed straight at Justin Ndikumana.
Sofapaka were forced to make another change when Kassumba was forced off injured and was replaced by Telvin Omutere. Things got worse for the former champions when Mohammed Kilume tore his hamstring with 13 minutes left
With all three substitutions exhausted, Batoto ba Mungu were forced to play the remainder of the tie with 10 men.
Kitawi came close to equalizing when Asieche’s corner found him at the backpost but he headed straight to the side netting.
Dennis Oliech, barely five minutes into the game after coming on for Tuyisenge should have killed off the game in added time when Wendo’s cross from the right found him rushing into the box, but he took a wild effort that skied off target.