How Gor Mahia won the title: The inside story of K’Ogalo’s 2018 league title triumph

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Monday, August 27th 2018 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
Coach Dylan Kerr of Gor Mahia FC train ahead of fifth Group D match of the CAF Confederations Cup at Kasarani Stadium. Aug 18, 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

17-time Kenyan champions battle Algeria’s USM Algers on Wednesday

On Saturday, Gor Mahia went into the Mashemeji derby looking for a win to retain the SportPesa Premier League title.

And their prayers were answered as a fringe K’Ogalo side beat AFC Leopards 2-0 in a chaotic duel to be crowned champions in front of their eternal rivals with six games (71 points) to spare.
But the question is, how did Gor Mahia win their 17th unprecedented league title?

Played like real champions

Gor Mahia seem to have been in a class of their own through out the season and played like real champions despite off the pitch issues.

Though they had the best scoring rate of 65 goals, they sometimes looked shaky at the back, conceding 22 times, eight goals more than second placed Bandari.

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Despite having a slow start to the season, Gor managed to take control of the league as they established a formidable lead by going unbeaten in the competition for 22 games before Bandari dramatically ended their run with a 2-1 victory in Mombasa. But they responded immediately like real champions to beat Posta Rangers 2-1.

Lack of worthy competitor

Just like last year, Gor Mahia had no worthy competitors in the SportPesa Premier League this season. Mathare United were too close but inconsistence affected them, while Sofapaka and AFC Leopards blew hot and cold failing to keep pace with Kerr’s squad. Mathare had a better start to the season, exchanging lead at the top of the table with Gor Mahia before fading away at the close of the first leg.

Bandari seemed to have come into the party a bit too late. However, what could not have reasonably been expected is the massive gap in terms of points and goal difference between the newly crowned champions and all their worthy rivals.

Rotation and enough depth

To avoid injuries and fatigue due to busy schedule that have seen Gor Mahia compete in different competitions, Dylan Kerr tried his best to rotate his squad. His gamble paid off as any team he fielded in the league grounded out results. He didn’t have a preferred starting line up and approached each game differently making it difficult for his opponent to properly strategize for them.

“I’ve trust in each and every player. That is why I am never worried with the team I field. Of course, there has been a lot of criticism, but at the end of the day we silence those critics with results,” said Kerr. Rotation has always brought freshness into Gor, making them arguably the most mobile and dynamic side in the league. This was even evidenced in the Saturday’s Mashemeji derby where they scored both two goals from a quick transition.

Though Gor’s march to a record 17th title was slowed down by injuries, the Briton had enough depth something that other teams lacked. But unlike the previous years, they didn’t have a stand-out player to bank on this season.

Kerr’s faith in playing unit

Dylan Kerr instilled faith and confidence in his playing unit and made the average players look like ‘stars’. The Briton breathed new life into fringe players and invited them to compete for places with established players. The players seemed to fight for each other, the coach and the club itself.

“We have got the spirit and will to win even in difficult situations,” said Jacques Tuyisenge, Gor Mahia’s leading scorer.

The likes of Boniface Omondi, Peter Odhiambo, Bernard Ondiek, Eliud Lokuwam and Joachim Oluoch never disappointed as they went on to inspire Kerr’s makeshift side to two crucial victories against Sofapaka and AFC Leopards in the lead up to their coronation.

A few questions

Despite Gor Mahia's domestic dominance, questions still remain over Kerr's side as they fly to Algeria for Wednesday's crunch CAF Confederations Cup fixture against USM Algers.

Gor defensive frailties were exposed in match day five as they complicated their quarterfinals qualification chances after falling 2-1 to Rayon Sports at Kasarani a week ago.

K'Ogalo were the talk of the town before that crucial fixture as they just needed a point to sail through.

But their abrupt falter could have been as a result of the bungled handling of Meddie Kagere and Godfrey Walusimbi’s transfers.

Gor have looked a little bit exposed at the back since Walusimbi controversial move to South Africa's side' Kaizer Chiefs. Wellington Ochieng and Karim Nizigiyimana have just returned from their long term injuries and they are yet to settle in well.