Record Kenyan champions Gor Mahia have a mountain to climb in Sunday’s return leg of the Caf Confederation Cup play-offs in Lusaka, Zambia after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Napsa Stars at Nyayo Stadium on Sunday.
K’Ogalo were once again a pale shadow of their former selves as they struggled in front of goal at home before Daniel Adoko punished them with a thunderbolt in the 86th minute.
Manuel Vaz Pinto and his men must now beat the pensioners with more than two unanswered goals on February 21 for them to progress to the lucrative group stages.
While the Zambian’s technical bench members thronged onto the pitch to join their players in celebration after the final whistle, the images of Gor Mahia players falling flat on their face and holding their heads in their hands as they left the pitch one after another summed up their current state of inconsistency.
But true to his words, former Gor Mahia defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino did not join his teammates in celebration after the Ghanaian midfielder scored the winner.
Owino looked animated and lonely as he walked to the dressing room.
“It was tough playing against my former teammates, but I’m glad we managed to win. We are now looking forward to an exciting return leg in Zambia,” said Owino.
Gor Mahia’s best chance of the first half came in the 28th minute when Kenneth Muguna released Jules Ulimwengu in the box, but the Burundian striker shot straight at the goalkeeper Rabson Mucheleng’anga before Philemon Otieno’s cross from the right flank was easily gathered by the goalkeeper.
In the 36th minute, Muguna saw his effort go over the bar before Jacob Ngulube’s shot was deflected for a fruitless corner on the opposite end.
Geoffrey Ochieng then made a brilliant interception to deny Austin Banda a scoring chance before goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch came off his line to stop Laudit Mavugo from scoring.
Andrew Juma almost put the hosts in front on the stroke of halftime, but he wasted a free header following a long throw in.
Gor Mahia came close to taking the lead two minutes into the second when Alpha Onyango received a pass from Muguna in the box only for his shot to go wide before Mavugo paved way for his Zambian teammate Jimmy Mukeya.
Samuel Onyango replaced Nicholas Kipkirui for Gor Mahia before coach Manuel Vaz Pinto made a double substitution on the hour mark with Ugandan-born South Sudan striker Tito Okello and John Macharia coming on for Ulimwengu and Alpha Onyango.
Samuel Onyango could have broken the deadlock in the 68th minute when he made a superb run on the left flank only for him to shoot straight at the goalkeeper to the disappointment of his teammate Okello who was anxiously waiting for a cut back in the area.
Muguna then forced a fine save from Napsa custodian before Charles Momanyi’s close-range header went over the bar as Gor tried to pin the Zambians in their half.
A few minutes later, Mukeya dribbled past his markers only for him to scuff his effort at the edge of the box.
But in the 86th minute, the unexpected happened when Adoko pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the box and unleashed a screamer that flew past Boniface Oluoch.