BY RODGERS ESHITEMI
|Gor Mahia players celebrate their goal against US Bitam of Gabon during their Champions League first leg match at Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi, yesterday. Gor won 1-0. [PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO/STANDARD]|
Danny Sserenkuma’s second half penalty is all that Gor Mahia needed to beat 10-man Gabonese Champions US Bitam in their first leg encounter of the CAF Champions League at Nyayo National Stadium, yesterday.
Both teams started the match on a cautious note, leaving no space for the other to take advantage, but it was the Kenyan Premier League champions who settled first with the trio of Sserenkuma, Godfrey Walusimbi and George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo keeping Bitam’s defence on toes.
K’ogalo could have scored in the 20th minute after Walusimbi and Odhiambo combined well, but the former’s cross in the box from the left was too high for his teammates.
Two minutes later, David Owino made an incredible bicycle kick to deny the visitors an opening goal.
In the 34th minute, captain Jerim Onyango pulled off a fine save from Meye Axel’s header before Odhiambo’s powerful shot at the edge of the box missed target by inches as half time ended tied at 0-0.
Pressure on bitam
On the hour mark, Bitam were reduced to 10 men after their captain and goalkeeper, Yves Bitseki, was red-carded for handling the ball outside his area and Fabien Owono came in as a replacement with Claude Mve substituted.
But after Gor Mahia coach, Bobby Williamson, brought in Innocent Mutiso and Jared Obwoge for Rama Salim and George Odhiambo respectively, their impact was felt immediately as they piled pressure on Bitam’s defence.
And it’s in the 73rd minute that the referee awarded Gor the penalty after Sserenkuma’s shot was handled in the area by the Gabonese defender. The dreadlocked forward did not make a mistake from the resultant spot, kick sending the keeper wrong way.
Speaking after the match, Gor coach said he was satisfied with the result, but admitted that they still have a lot to do before next weekend’s return leg clash in Libreville.
“I am satisfied with the result, but we need to improve in some areas. We have players like Joseph Wanyonyi and Kevin Omondi who have been out with injuries, but I hope by the time we travel they will be available,” said Williamson.
“From the way they have player here, I know it will not be an easy match in Gabon, but we’ve a one goal advantage and will do our best.”
Jerim Onyango was similarly pleased with the one-goal advantage, but urged his teammates to give their best in the return tie.
“I am happy we won, but we must be prepared for a touch match next weekend,” said Onyango.
The match was watched by an unsually small crowd, compared with the KPL matches.
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