December 26, 2020, is a date that stand-in Gor Mahia coach Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omolo, his players and their fans will surely never forget.
On a Boxing Day night, the record Kenyan champions were literally reduced from giants to minnows by their Algerian hosts CR Belouizdad after soaking in six un-replied goals in the first leg of round one of the Caf Champions League.
Amir Sayoud was the tormentor-in-chief scoring a hat-trick with Hamza Bellahoulel, Larbi Tabti and Maeky Ngombo also getting their names on the scoresheet to seal an emphatic win for the Algerian champions at Stade du 5 Julliet 1962.
Gor Mahia now needs a miracle to score more than seven unanswered goals in the reverse fixture on January 5 for them to progress to the next round of the competition.
But the writing appears to have been on the wall as the build-up to this game had been overshadowed by the news of poor preparation from Gor Mahia camp, unstable technical bench and players’ go slows due to unpaid salaries. The absence of their injured captain Kenneth Muguna was felt as the team lacked creativity, intensity and struggled to string passes.
The sad truth is that K’Ogalo just shot themselves in the foot and the players had mentally and physiologically lost the match even before stepping onto the pitch. The game exposed Gor Mahia’s defensive frailties and profligacy in attack.
The fixture was also rescheduled from December 23 to 26 on Gor Mahia’s request owing to restrictive travel connections after they failed to secure a flight to Algiers as the Algerian government has closed the airspace as a measure to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Though Kenyan teams have seen worse losses against North African opposition in the recent past, Saturday’s humiliation looked like a repeat of K’Ogalo’s embarrassing 6-0 defeat to Cameroon’s Cannon Yaounde in the reverse tie of the 1979 African Cup Winners’ Cup final. The Cameroonian side won the trophy 8-0 on aggregate following their 2-0 victory in the first leg fixture in Nairobi.
From AFC Leopards’ 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Egyptian giants Al Ahly in 1987 to Gor’s 5-0 defeat to Tunisia’s Esperance in 2014 and Zamalek (2011) and Smouha (2017) both hammering Ulinzi Stars 4-0, North African teams have been a hard nut to crack for Kenyan clubs.
But Gor Mahia’s recent loss in Algiers was demolition in more ways than one. There was a penalty, classic goals and brilliant dummies in a match that Gor Mahia were reduced to a bunch of mooching, stumbling green-shirted spectators chasing the shadows of the Algerians.
It will definitely be hard for Gor to forget the shame of this humiliation, not because they were ‘weak’ but because of their poor preparation, lack of quality, the magnitude of the disaster and accumulation of errors both individually and collectively.
The hosts took an early lead in the sixth minute through Sayoud when his well-executed free-kick beat goalkeeper Gad Matthews after a reckless foul by Geoffrey Ochieng before Marcellin Koukpo set up Bellahouel for the second goal six minutes later.
Belouizdad made Gor look so ordinary and appeared like they were going to score every time they crossed the halfway line.
And the confirmation that this was going to be a crazy night for Gor Mahia arrived in the 19th minute when Sayoud scored from the spot after Joachim Oluoch brought down his marker in the box before Larbi Tabti capitalised on Michael Apudo’s defensive error to make it 4-0 on the stroke of halftime.
There was subsequently no looking back for Belouizdad after the break as further goals from Sayoud in the 53rd minute and Ngombo’s 57th minute strike completed a ruthless performance from the Algerians.
Gor Mahia Squad against CR Belouizdad
Starting XI: Gad Matthews (GK), Geoffrey Ochieng’, Philemon Otieno, Michael Apudo, Joachim Oluoch, Charles Momanyi, Sydney Ochieng, Samuel Onyango, Tito Okello, Ernest Wendo, Benson Omala
Subs: Boniface Oluoch (GK) Kelvin Wasonga, Andrew Juma, Nicholas Omondi, Jules Ulimwengu, Clifton Miheso, Fredrick Odhiambo