NAKURU, Kenya- Rwanda internationals, Meddie Kagere and Jacques Tuyisenge fired holders, mighty Gor Mahia FC to Goodison Park to play Everton FC after the club retained the SportPesa Super Cup with a classy 2-0 victory over Simba SC on Sunday.
It took only three minutes for Kagere to break the deadlock in the battle of the Kenyan and Tanzanian league champions before his countryman Tuyisenge produced a stylish strike in the 55th to send most at a jam-packed Afraha Stadium into orbit.
Simba simply had no answer as Gor comfortably rounded the victory to earn a chance to revenge against Everton at their own backyard after the first meeting in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania last year ended in a 1-2 defeat in head coach Dylan Kerr’s first game in charge of the SportPesa Premier League titleholders.
In addition to winning a dream trip to England, Gor also earned the USD30,000 (KSh3m) in prize money as Harun Shakava became the second K’Ogalo captain to lift the Super Cup trophy after Musa Mohammed who left the club at the end of last season.
Their march to the title has been nothing short of a majestic procession, opening their defence by thrashing Jeshi la Kujenga Uchumi SCZ from Zanzibar 3-0 in the quarters before knocking out plucky Tanzanian side, Singida United 2-0 in the semis.
For the second Super Cup in a row, Kagere won the Golden Boot after notching four for the invitational eight-team tournament this year, one better than last year as he became the first player to score in all rounds of the Super Cup since its inception.
He was duly named the 2018 Super Cup Most Valuable Player with his coach Kerr giving him and fellow goal scorer, Tuyisenge the chance to earn the standing ovation they deserved by withdrawing the pair with a minute left on the clock.
Simba took home silver and USD10000 (KSh1m) with Singida who edged Kenya’s Kakamega Homeboyz FC (USD5000/KSh500,000) 4-1 on post-match penalties after a 1-1 stalemate in regulation in the bronze match at the same venue earlier pocketed USD7500 (Ksh750,000).
With the third and fourth place settled, the Kenyan and Tanzanian league holders took to the field for the eagerly-awaited final that saw supporters descend on the aging Afraha, taking every available space in the stands, perimeter wall as well as the floodlight pylons.
With both teams playing their customary 4-4-2 formation, the midfield battle was set to be the determining factor in the hotly contested gold medal encounter.
Kenyan international midfielder, Francis Kahata, who was cheered by the thousands of fans every time he got a touch of the ball, sent in a free kick in the third minute which found Kagere who tried to shoot on the turn but his shot was blocked.
A minute later, Kahata found Tuyisenge who slotted a ball to Kagere to shoot low past goalkeeper Aishi Manula to give Gor an early lead, although the Simba keeper who had impressed throughout the tournament will shudder at how he failed to hold on to the ball.
The goal was Kagere’s seventh in the Super Cup, putting him head and shoulders above every other forward who has played at the tournament that is a brainchild of leading bookmakers, SportPesa whose CEO, Captain Ronald Karauri, Chief Operating Officer, Jakob Kristensen and Chief Marketing Officer, Kelvin Twissa were among the chief guests.
As expected, the goal ignited the crowd that had been chanting and blowing horns for more than two hours before kick-off which in turn gave Gor players the confidence they needed to dominate possession in the early exchanges besides rocking Simba’s plan to plot an ambush.
In the 11th, Rashid Juma had Simba’s first attempt but it was well off target, always rising over the bar as it threatened to clear the length of the stands.
Gor continued to enjoy most of the ball and all Simba crosses into their box were easily dealt with by captain Shakava and Joash Onyango at the heart of the K’Ogalo defence.
In the 25th, Juma got the few Tanzanian fans on their feet when he drilled a right-footed shot that was caught by the safe hands of Shaban Odhoji in the Gor goal.
Erasto Nyoni, the Simba captain was shown the first yellow card of the game in the 35th after a reckless challenge on Tuyisenge, who stayed down injured and was stretchered off the pitch, before returning to the field of play.
A war of words ensued after the cynical tackle and Gor captain Shakava was also shown yellow for remonstrating too much with the referee as tempers threatened to boil over.
George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo took the resultant free-kick which was on target but after a slight fumble, Aishi was able to gather with Kagere bearing down hoping to pick the pieces.
The game became heated as the first half came to a close with Simba players looking to frustrate their green-attired Gor opponents as a couple of reckless challenges from both sets of players began to fly in.
When it turned back to the football, Godfrey Walusimbi found Kahata with a great through ball but the latter’s follow up shot went inches wide of the relieved Manula’s goal.
The referee blew for half time with Gor leading 1-0 with Simba retreating to the dressing room to fashion a way back to the contest.
However, Simba looked shaky upon the restart and Gor went in for the kill, cooking up a number of good passes looking for the opening that would allow them to get a second.
Mieno then delivered a sublime chipped cross into the penalty area in the 55th that was met by Tuyisenge with a devastating first time finish to give the record SportPesa Premier League (SPL) winners Gor the two goal cushion.
Simba responded with their first change of the game, taking off Juma who was replaced by Marcel Kaheza as they searched for a first goal from open play in the 2018 edition of the Super Cup.
Another substitution followed a minute later as Simba defender Yusuf Mlipili was taken off for Hussein Mohamed.
Knowing the flight to England was all but confirmed, Gor started to turn on the style launching attack after attack with Simba finding it difficult to keep the ball as they looked done and dusted despite half an hour left to play.
The agitated Hemed made his third change in 10 as Moses Kitandu came on in place of Rashid Mohamed in the 62nd.
Gor made their first change in the 67th bringing on the electric Innocent Wafula in place of former Tusker FC midfielder Mieno.
In the 73rd, Philemon Otieno found Kahata on the right flank and he sent a low cross into the box that was missed by everyone.
Odhiambo was substituted in the 82nd and was replaced by the speedy Lawrence Juma as Gor aimed to see out the match and the tournament without conceding a single goal.
Shiza Kichuya gifted Tuyisenge a loose ball in the 86th and was lucky to see the Rwandese forward hit the side netting with his shot as the crowd rose to celebrate what would have been the icing on the cake.
The crowd’s song and dance got even louder as the game reached the final few minutes as Gor ran down the clock by a spot of keep ball that added more wounds to the injured pride of Simba who looked jaded.
As the referee signalled for an extra three minutes, coach Dylan Kerr brought off tournament top scorer Kagere and replaced him with Boniface Omondi before Tuyisenge followed moments later with Bernard Ondiek coming on.
The referee finally blew for full time and the crowd went wild and despite the rain that descended on the stadium, starting with a drizzle before the heavens opened up, Shakava received the trophy from Captain Karauri as confetti rained on Afraha to spark a roar that Simba- Swahili for Lion- would have been proud off.
Soon, Kerr led his players to place the trophy in the middle of the goal to the left of the main stand and all his players rushed to it before they picked their prized possession and paraded it to all four corners of the creaking stadium.
Going by this rate, few would wager against them completing a hat-trick next year with Odhoji receiving the Golden Glove award for going the entire tournament without conceding whilst Kagere added his second Golden Boot to his expanding collection of personal honours.