Gor Mahia, Tusker in tricky CAF ties

Saturday, December 4th, 2021 00:00 |
usker FC defender Kalos Kirenge (right) battles Zamalek striker Seifeddine Jaziri in a CAF Champions League match. PD/ DAVID NDOLO

Kenya’s representatives in the CAF Confederation Cup Gor Mahia and Tusker have destiny in their hands as they face their respective opponents in tricky fixtures on Sunday.

Gor have their hands full when they come face to face with Congo Brazzaville side Otoho D’Oyo in the return match at Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday while Tusker will be away to CS Sfaxien of Tunisia in the reverse fixture the same day.

At stake in both matches is qualification to the group stages of the tournament and a Sh 27 million bounty to boot.

For Gor they will be angling to wipe out the 1-0 deficit they suffered at the hands of Otoho at Alphonse Massamba Stadium in Brazzaville last week in a match which saw dependable players Jules Ulimwengu and John Ochieng locked out of the match after allegedly testing positive for COVID-19.

As for Tusker, they will be walking on eggshells in Sfax, Tunisia and will need an outright victory over Sfaxien or score a draw to advance after being held to a barren draw by the North Africans in the first leg match in Nairobi.

Back to Gor, the multiple Kenyan champions will draw great inspiration in the return of Ulimwengu and Ochienf who have since tested negative for corona.

Ulimwengu and Ochieng had remained in Congo where they had been detained to quarantine following the ‘positive test’ with Gor management crying foul, saying it was a ploy to deny them the services of some of their vital players.

Gor Sporting Director Lordvick Aduda said Ulimwengu and Ochieng’ have tested negative and are both ready for selection in the return encounter.

“The result of the test was manipulated to deny them a chance to play for us but let’s treat these as bygones and focus on the return match,” said Aduda.

With Ulimwengu back, the Burundian talisman is expected to team up with Samuel Onyango, Benson Omala and John Macharia in search of goals as Gor seek for at least a 2-0 win that will enable them to join the money bracket of the event.

In defence, Gor coach Mark Harrison is expected to keep faith on the likes of Fred Nkata, Haroun Shakava and Ernest Wendo.

Elsewhere in Tunisia, Tusker will rue missing the services of Hillary Wandera who was injured in the first leg clash although there is a suitable replacement in Kevin Monyi.

Tusker Robert Matano said the team intends to score early goals against the hosts to destabilize them.

“Yes, North Africa has always been a dreary hunting ground for most Kenyan teams but remember, CS Sfaxien are not unbeatable from how I assessed them in the first leg match in Nairobi.

We will not be in a panic mode and intend to take the game to them early enough,” he said.

Matano added: “ We worked hard to win the Kenyan Premier League and ultimately grab a ticket to the Africa Champions League from where we were demoted to the CAF Cup. I think with focus, we can eliminate Sfaxien and make it to the group stages.He further reflected on the first leg tie in Nairobi which ended in a barren draw, saying the team played well but only came short of translating their chances into goals.

“I was impressed with how the team played and performed, with the only blemish being the striking force which did not yield goals. We did not win, they did not win and so the game is open. We will go there and try to score to win. I believe in myself and I believe in my team. I am a winner and we will fight to win. We are going there to enjoy the game. The more we enjoy the game, the better the possibility of scoring,” coach Matano stated.

He reiterated that the bottom line for his team is pumping in the much needed goals that shall make the difference.

“When we score they have to score twice and once we get a goal, I believe it will make us more relaxed. I am confident that we can do well because I have seen how they play and I know they are beatable.”

Tusker are scheduled to leave for Tunisian capital Tunis today from where they shall connect to Sfax in the match penciled for the 14,000-seater Stade Taieb Mhiri Stadium.

The team will be without defender Hillary Wandera who sustained a serious injury in the first leg clash and has been ruled out of action for a couple of months.

The team had its final session in Nairobi on Tuesday afternoon, playing a training match with fellow Premier League side Wazito FC which ended 3-2 in favour of the visitors.

Musa Masika scored the winning goal for Wazito with ten minutes left, heading home unmarked inside the box off a swift counter attack with Michael Owino floating in the cross from the right.

Ibrahim Joshua had given Tusker a first half lead, converting from the penalty spot after Boniface Muchiri was hacked inside the box.

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