Gor Mahia bring down Yanga in Cecafa Cup opener
Kenyan champions Gor Mahia on Saturday rallied from a goal down to floor pre-tournament favourites and hosts Yanga SC 2-1 in their opening match of the Cecafa Club Championship tournament at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
K’Ogalo overcame an early setback after defender Dirkir Glay put the ball in his own net, to score twice through Harun Shakava and striker Michael Olunga in a thrilling match which the hosts finished with 10 men.
Shakava scored the equaliser after heading past Yanga keeper Ally Mustafa from a Karim Nizigiyimana free-kick after Godfrey Walusimbi had been brought down on the left flank in the 18th minute before Olunga grabbed the headlines with the winner a minute after the breather.
“These are only three points. It doesn’t mean that we shall have the remaining group matches any easier. Playing with an extra man always has a psychological effect, but Yanga were tough opponents” coach Frank Nuttall said after the match.
Yanga were heavily tipped to win the match, but their casual approach to the game raised questions over their credentials.
Nuttall opted for a refreshed line-up that included Innocent Wafula and Glay ahead of Ali Abondo and the injured Collins Okoth, while Yanga had the reliable Andre Countinho and Godfrey Mwashiuya lying in wait on bench.
Yanga fans, who had filled one half of the stadium, were first to celebrate after Glay slid in an own goal in an attempt to clear a dangerous cross from winger Donald Ngoma just five minutes into the match.
It took the Kenyan champions 12 minutes of trying before Shakava delivered the equaliser by rising highest to head in Nizigiyimana pin-point delivery.
The game then took a significant turning point in the 23rd minute when Zambia winger Ngoma received a second yellow card for smacking Shakava, and he was subsequently escorted to the locker rooms by his team manager amid loud jeers from the Simba SC and Gor Mahia fans.
In the remaining 24 minutes of the first half, Yanga recorded only one shot on target, while Olunga threatened consistently for his team on the other end.
In the 32nd minute, the 21-year-old found himself unmarked in front of Yanga’s goal, and he almost doubled the advantage but his shot went over the bar.
Olunga was felled inside the box in the 37th minute, but referee Ssali Mashood waved off his penalty appeal.
The two teams went into the break to raucous applause from their respective fans and barely a minute after resumption, Olunga nicked the ball from the opponent’s defenders and rushed homewards before rolling it calmly into the net to hand K’ogalo the lead.
Yanga coach Hans van der Plujim brought in Kpah Sherman for the tiring Simon Msuva in a bid to sharpen his front line but this proved unfruitful against the unrelenting K’Ogalo defence.
Yanga captain Nadur Haroub missed a penalty in the second half after Shakava had handled the ball in the box, with Oluoch picking his poorly taken “panenka” before releasing Olunga for an unfruitful counter attack on the opposite end.