NAKURU, Kenya- SportPesa Premier League champions, Gor Mahia FC will play Hull City FC on May 13 after edging bitter rivals AFC Leopards SC 5-4 on post-match penalties at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on Labour Day.
The 84th Mashemeji Derby dubbed the Hull City Challenge went down to the wire after the two most decorated clubs in the country vied for the ticket to play the English Championships side on their maiden tour to Kenya.
After a pulsating encounter ended 0-0, penalties were called upon to separate the sides where goal-keeper, Shaban Odhoji, came off the bench to save a penalty after Jacques Tuyisenge missed Gor’s first to lay the platform for the victory.
At half-time, the crowd were given a special treat with the grand entrance of former Prime Minister and Gor Patron, Rt. Hon Raila Amolo Odinga flanked by SportPesa CEO, Captain Ronald Karauri, Nairobi Senator and Leopards diehard, Johnstone Sakaja as well as retired Kenyan football legend, Joe Kadenge.
The dignitaries arrived in style, in two helicopters that landed in the middle of the pitch, causing a sensation and a loud volley of cheers in an incident that caught everyone by surprise to add spice to the momentous occasion.
With all the pre-match hype over and Afraha reverberating in song, action got underway in a pacey first half where the SPL champions Gor just shading the chances, nine shots to three according to stats, where Ezekiel Owade impressed in the Leopards goal.
“Mashemeji Derby is all about bragging rights. I thought we dominated the match and if everyone is unhappy with my team selection, don’t put it on social media, come to me.
“I believe I picked the best team, not the wrong team. What I asked the players today is to be patient. I’m not going to pick any of them but they blew AFC away,” Gor coach, Dylan Kerr said after the shootout victory.
“Everybody was fantastic, if anyone has a problem, come to me. I’m not selfish, I do my best for K’Ogalo fans, the chairman and this club. We must support these players, they are working on a tight schedule, 18 games,” the Briton vented following social media backlash on his team selection.
His opposite number and new Ingwe head coach, Argentine Zodolfo Zapata, who was celebrating his birthday on Tuesday, took charge for the first time assisted by the departing interim boss, Dennis Kitambi.
“Congratulations to Gor, I’m proud of my boys because they played well in the 90 minutes. I believe they will do a good job and I’m proud of them.
“In the league, we will go step by step and I believe it is still open. This is Leopards and I believe we are going to build on this,” Zapata said post match.
He saw, Ingwe who threatened first in the second minute when Robinson Kamura offloaded an audacious free kick that was well saved by K’Ogalo custodian Boniface Onyango.
Live wire forward, Ezekiel Odera, who recently bagged the SportPesa/SJAK Player of the Month Award for March, then worked Oluoch with a left-footed strike in the sixth as Leopards ramped up the pressure.
Playing in their third match in six days, the much-changed Gor came closest to breaking the deadlock a minute later when Kevin ‘Ade’ Omondi was inches away from turning in a cross from the right.
That was the cue for Gor to take charge of proceedings and Lawrence Juma was next to try his luck with a shot from range that flew over the crossbar in a lively opening 10 of the biggest domestic club football game.
Omondi who was finding himself in promising positions spurned the best chance to score the opener in the 14th when Owade spilt his right-footed finish before the Ingwe keeper redeemed himself by quickly gathering the ball.
Ivorian striker, Ephrem Guikan, who had a quiet game then sprung to life six minutes later when his floating header went round the Ingwe post much to the relief of Owade and his defenders.
With a busy programme coming up for the record SPL title winners, the last thing Kerr needed was an injury blow and unfortunately for K’Ogalo defender Mike Kibwage went down after a collision in the penalty area.
Play was stopped to attend to his injury and Kibwage was patched up much to the relief of the British coach.
The next stoppage in play in the 25th saw Leopards lose Isaac Oduro with Zapata bringing on Moses Mburu in a straight swap at left-back.
At the half hour mark, Odera, a former Gor player, had the ball in the back of the net but Ingwe’s faithful celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.
Owade then made two great saves to keep the scores level at the break, first from a free kick in the 36th before denying Juma excellently on the stroke of half time.
After the breather, Kerr turned to his bench and brought out the calvary having seen Owade produce another flying save to keep the scores level in the 48th.
First, record signing and top scorer, Jacques Tuyisenge came on for Bernard Ondiek before the scourge of Leopards in recent Mashemeji derbies, Meddie Kagere benched the ineffectual Guikan.
In a final throw of the dice, Kerr called on winger George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo for Boniface Omondi as he sought a final flourish, with his team now resembling his first choice XI.
Kagere was then forced off the field of play after being booted on his head by Kamura in a coming together as they fought for the ball before Juma got away with a cynical challenge on Whyvonne Isuza.
Owade then produced more heroics to deny Kagere with a minute to the 90 left as Gor came agonisingly close to producing a last-gasp winner.
With penalties looming, Kerr introduced keeper Shaban Odhoji for Oluoch with each team allowed six substitutes in the Hull City Challenge.
Three minutes were added on and at the final whistle, it was all square at 0-0, calling upon the lottery of spot kicks to decide who would play the Tigers.
Tuyisenge missed the first for Gor with Isuza seeing his brilliantly saved by Odhoji as tension rose in the crowd.
Kagere then stepped up and rolled his effort past Owade who was wrong-footed to give K’Ogalo the advantage.
Odera then squeezed his penalty past Odhoji who punched his chipped effort into his own net for 1-1 with Walusimbi neatly beat Owade for 2-1 to Gor after his effort came off the bar and into the net.
Lukooya cooly slotted for 2-2 to leave the game on a knife-edge but substitute Odhiambo made it 3-2 to K’Ogalo.
Duncan Otieno once again levelled the contest, giving Odhoji no chance before Joachim Oluoch piled the pressure on Kamura to convert the fifth spot-kick to keep Ingwe alive when he sent his effort to the roof of the net.
Kamura confidently took the game to sudden death when he expertly sent his kick home, sending Odhoji the wrong way.
Ondiek stepped up and rammed the ball past Owade to hand Gor the advatange again at 5-4 with Oburu skying his penalty over to spark ecstatic celebrations among the K’Ogalo faithful.