Midfield ace Francis Kahata was the only Gor Mahia player in action on Thursday as Kenya twice came from behind to beat Tanzania 3-2 in a thrilling / nerve wracking encounter. Philemon Otieno did not play and Joash Onyango is still injured.
In what is now known as the majiarani derby, there were however a significant number of former Gor Mahia players including David Owino Calabar who played in place of Philemon. Eric Ouma who played in midfield and Michael Olunga who scored a brace. And Musa Mohamed who had another quiet game.
Tanzania took the lead against the run of play. From a lightning quick counter attack, Mbwana Samatta found himself wide open on the left flank. Of all the players to leave wide open, this ought to have been the last one since he has an impressive goal-scoring record for TP Mazembe and now plays in the Belgian top tier. But Calabar was nowehere to be seen and neither was any other defender. Sammatta’s shot was parried by goalkeeper Matasi right into the path of Msuva who duly netted.
Kenya battled back gamely. The equalizer came via Michael Olunga who scored with a spectacular scissors kick from a goalmouth melee. Kenya had barely finished celebrating when Samatta found himself wide open again on the left flank. This time he made a clever run and latched onto a through pass, leaving Calabar in his wake. His first attempt was stopped. But he made good on his second attempt. Tanzania went into half time leading 2-1.
Kahata had a quiet game but he did not put a foot wrong and was precise with his passes. But he was replaced by John Avire before halftime as coach Migne who made a tactical change as he looked for urgency. To sharpen the attack, coach Migne also replaced Abud Omar. And John Avire of Sofapaka. impressed with his work rate.
Kenya once again battled back. From a set play, Belgium based Johana Omollo, a product of Ofafa Jericho high school, sneaked behind the Tanzania defence to head the ball home.
Kenya then appeared to take their foot off the accelerator. To add some urgency, coach Migne brought on Eric Omondi Johana. He did not have an impressive game. But his one moment of brilliance created the third goal. His mazy run down the right flank ended with a pass to Olunga who turned around and scored with a low drive past the outstretched Tanzania goalkeeper.
Joseph Okumu was once again Kenya’s most impressive defender. Omollo was solid and did not put a foot wrong. Wanyama was okay but had far too many errant passes. Often he tried to make decisive passes into the box when more patience was called for. He had a fine header saved by the goalkeeper in the second half.
Masika once again looked very lively on the flanks. However he wasted a lot of runs by giving the ball away. On the opposite flank, Ouma Santos impressed with his industry. He almost scored with a volley from close range in the 14th minute but was denied by the keeper.
Tanzania were coached by former Nigeria winger Emmanuel Ammunike who featured against Gor Mahia in a 1994 CAF cup match while playing for Zamalek. On that day he was being tightly marked by Tobias Ocholla and his frustrations led him to lash out with a vicious elbow to Ocholla’s forehead. That match ended 1-1 at Nyayo stadium.
Ochola who was known as “Jua Kali” for his tight marking, should give Calabar tips. I can’t tell you how many times I saw Samatta open on that flank. Do that against Senegal and Sadio Mane will bury Kenya.
Stars now play Senegal in the final group game, hoping for draw that will propel them to the next stage.