Gor, Bandari braced for Carthage tests in CAF assignments
The compelling affairs between Kenyan teams and North African bogeys that have generated nostalgic folklore for decades will prime again this weekend as Gor Mahia and Bandari respectively face USM Alger of Algeria and Tunisian outfit US Ben Guerdane in crucial CAF fixtures.
K'Ogalo first play on the road before hosting the second leg in two weeks while Bandari are at Kasarani on Saturday before finding their way to Tunisia for return leg in a fortnight.
The script has been same for most Kenyan teams; drubbing and elimination in the hands of Carthage teams every time they collide. The constant surrender to North African teams is not only confined to Kenyan clubs but also other football teams in the region.
However, the tide is changing and Gor Mahia and other teams from Sub Saharan Africa are fast closing the gap. K’Ogalo bowed out of CAF Confederation Cup at the hands of RS Berkane of Morocco following a 7-1 aggregate mauling last season. The huge score line was, however, largely occasioned by a debilitating player go slow in Gor’s camp.
Gor had beaten Zamalek and NA Hussein Dey in the group stage to set up the fateful last eight fixture. K’Ogalo had also fell narrowly to Esperance of Tunisia in the previous season’s Champions League.
The Tunisian giants employed shocking levels of intimidation to squeeze a lone goal past Gor Mahia in Tunis. They went on to win the Champions League while a dejected K’Ogalo had to contend with the second tier Confederation Cup.
Gor, for the first time in a long while will play the first leg away from home then host USM Alger in Nairobi a fortnight later. A result on the road and a big performance at home is all K’Ogalo need to break into the coveted Champions League group stage.
The team has just 16 players available on the rooster due to injuries and late registrations. Maurice Ojwang, the centre half signed from Western Stima, will make the trip and gives the team options at the back. Coach Steven Polack is, however, very confident of his boys ahead of the group stage clincher.
“We have trained well and are prepared for what is coming ahead. I’ve not been here long but I can say that the players are committed and want to achieve something. The last time we went out, there were no goals but afterwards, we have scored 10. That is an encouraging improvement and I just want the team to focus and do what I know they can,” said Polack.
Gor played USM Alger in 2018, losing 2-1 on aggregate following a scoreless draw at home in which K’Ogalo played a man less for 40 minutes after Joash Onyango was sent off just minutes into the second half.
Bandari on the other hand, play the first game at home then travel to Tunisia in a fortnight for the return leg of Confederation Cup. Bandari memorably failed to score at home but surprised many by eliminating Al Ahly Shandy of Sudan away from home courtesy of away goals rule.
The hosts scored an own goal but quickly leveled at the start of the second half but Bandari held on, defending superbly to ride the tide out and progress.
The coastal club has not come out as winners after 90 minutes in the last nine matches. All the games ended in draws. It is a worrying trend that coach Bernard Mwalala must address if he is to move to the play-off stage of Confederation Cup.
The key in these two-leg fixtures is to win at home. He was fortunate to have sailed past Al Ahly Shandy without scoring at home. US Ben Guerdane may not be so forgiving.
The team is, however, plagued by injuries to key players Yema Mwana and William Wadri. The duo from Congo and Uganda respectively have been crucial to Bandari’s goal hunt but there is hope of at least one of them recovering for the tie.
“We are focused and want to kill the game at home if possible. It is important to win home matches because we don’t know what will happen over there but my players are up to the task regardless of who is picked,” Mwalala said.