NAIROBI, Kenya- Visiting English side Hull City FC finally overcame SportPesa Premier League (SPL) champions, Gor Mahia FC 4-3 on penalties in their international friendly in Nairobi on Sunday.
A jam-packed Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani witnessed a hard-fought 0-0 draw after 90 minutes before the Tigers edged the post-match shootout that stretched the nerves of everyone present in the cathedral of Kenyan sport.
The 60,000-seater capacity stadium filled to its seams to witness the rare spectacle and after a keenly contest match that fittingly ended in a barren stalemate, it was Nigel Adkins side who emerged with a razor thin victory.
Substitute goal keeper, Callum Burton was the hero for the Tigers when he made three saves, the most crucial denying Cercidy Okeyo the chance to seal victory in the opening five where Gor held the 3-2 advantage.
Kasarani had not witnessed such a huge crowd for a football match, not since 1997 when national team Harambee Stars entertained the Super Eagles of Nigeria in a 1998 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
And the rocking venue was not disappointed when action finally got underway and after Hull impressed with early touches and close control, the SPL winners took charge of proceedings.
Ivorian Ephrem Guikan, preferred to the starting XI over Meddie Kagere, had the first real chance of the game in the eighth minute after a swift passage of play between Francis Kahata and George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo set him up but his shot went wide of the goal.
Hull midfielder Jon Toral sent a teasing free-kick into the area three minutes later but ex-Manchester United FC forward, Will Keane headed over the bar much to the joy of the thunderous home support.
Gor then turned up the pace and a great break released Kahata who sent a ferocious left footed shot wide of Hull starting custodian, David Marshall’s goal.
There was a pause in the game as Keane went down injured and though he laboured through the first half, he could not continue and was replaced by Tyler Hamilton at half time.
Kahata got a wonderful opportunity with a lovely effort from a free- kick that went inches over the bar, sending the crowd into a frenzy after Tuyisenge was fouled just outside the box in the 28th.
A minute later Philemon Otieno sent a teasing ball into the box which Guikan headed towards goal but Marshall was equal to the task with a great save.
The home crowd continued to rally behind Gor with cheers and screams and it seemed to be working as another counter attack saw Tuyisenge shoot agonisingly wide in the 31st.
Godfrey Walusimbi received the first yellow card of the game for a reckless challenge on Jarrod Bowen in the 41st and the game remained goalless at the breathe
The second half began with slightly less intensity than the first, punctuated by a raft of substitutions with Gor boss, Dylan Kerr taking off Ernest Wendo for Sammy Onyango in the 58th.
‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo was hauled off next with Kevin ‘Ade’ Omondi who missed his penalty during the shootout entering the fray.
A minute later Okeyo joined the action in place of former Tusker FC midfielder Humphrey Mieno, who was the scorer in the SportPesa All Stars match against Hull City at the KCOM Stadium last year.
In the 63rd, Kerr brought on crowd favourite Kagere for Guikan in a move that sent the supporters wild and rejuvenated his side.
K’Ogalo created and passed up a string of opportunities after putting Hull to the ropes without striking the knockout blow their play deserved as they ran rings around the Tigers defence.
Walusimbi came close three minutes later but some confusion in the box led to a fruitless corner.
Hull took off veteran keeper Marshall and brought on Burton who was immediately called upon to keep his side in the game when Tuyisenge skipped past two defenders and shot with his weaker right foot but the newly introduced goalkeeper saved.
In the 72nd, Hull made their third substitution of the match taking off Toral for the young William Chadwick and two minutes later, Bowen almost underlined his bulging reputation when he lashed onto a loose ball and forced Boniface Oluoch to save with his feet.
Frazier Campbell, who assisted the famous Dean Windass goal that took Hull to the English Premier League for the first time in 2008, was taken off in the 76th and was replaced by Thomas Powell.
Still Gor pressed on with substitute Wesley Onguso sending in a corner-like throw in into the box in the 82nd that was met by a rising Tuyisenge but the effort flew inches over the bar.
Neither side was however able to break the duck as the referee blew for full time with the score still goalless to usher in the lottery of the shootout.
The anti-climatic end for Gor fans did not puncture their enthusiasm, having seen their side match the visitors for quality and enterprise as they prepare to welcome Algerian giants, USM Alger at the same venue next Wednesday (May 16) in a CAF Confederations Cup encounter.
At the end of a memorable day in Kenyan football, a number of Gor fans poured to the pitch to catch photo opportunities with the Tigers, who won them over by their sportsmanship, good football and above all, the same fighting spirit that has made the SPL champions a difficult side to break.
Englishmen Kerr and Adkins, who are tied by their history at Sheffield United FC and Reading FC, left Kasarani with optimism of future success for their sides following what was an engaging slugfest that neither side deserved to lose.
Starting XI: Boniface Oluoch 29, Philemon Otieno 26, Godfrey Walusimbi 2, Joash Onyango 12, Harun Shakava (C) 18, Ernest Wendo 20, Francis Kahata 8, Humphrey Mieno 30, Jacques Tuyisenge 9, Ephraim Guikan 19, George Odhiambo 25
Substitutes: Shaaban Odhoji (GK) 16, Wesley Onguso 21, Charles Momanyi 27, Joachim Oluoch 15, Cercidy Okeyo 10, Sammy Onyango 6, Boniface Omondi 11, Kevin Omondi 14, Meddie Kagere 22
Starting XI: David Marshall 12, Daniel Batty 18, Robbie McKenzie 37, Adam Curry 46, Stephen Kingsley 28, Kevin Stewart 35, Goebel Evandro 15, Jon Toral 11, Jarrod Bowen 20, William Keane 19, Frazier Campbell 25
Substitutes: Callum Burton 36, Branjon Fleming 33, Tyler Hamilton 32, Thomas Powell 47, William Chadwick 45