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Kenyan champions Gor Mahia to tackle Zambia’s Napsa Stars in CAF Confederation Cup play-off

FOOTBALL By Robert Abong'o | January 8th 2021
Part of Gor Mahia FC during the second leg CAF Champions League match against CR Belouizdad, Algeria, on Wednesday at Nyayo National Stadium on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Perennial Kenyan Premier League Champions Gor Mahia will take on Zambian outfit NAPSA Stars in the CAF Confederation Cup group stage play-off following a draw done on Wednesday at CAF headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.

K’Ogalo host NAPSA in the first leg in Nairobi on February 14 with the return leg seven days later.

Gor Mahia were relegated to the Confederation Cup after being thrashed 8-1 on aggregate by Algerian side CR Belouizdad in the CAF Champions League first round.

NAPSA Stars advanced to the play-offs on the away goal rule following a 1-1 aggregate score against Mozambique’s UD Songo.

Gor Mahia fall to CR Belouizdad

CR Belouizdad Housseyn Selmi squeezing arm of Gor Mahia FC's Samuel Onyango during the second leg CAF Champions League on Wednesday at Nyayo National Stadium on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The record Kenyan champions were facing an uphill task and needed to score seven unanswered goals to progress to the group stages of the prestigious continental showpiece after suffering a humiliating 6-0 defeat to the seven-time Algerian champions on December 26.

Burundian striker Jules Ulimwengu put Gor Mahia ahead in the 18th minute only for Amir Sayoud, who was the tormentor-in-chief scoring a hat-trick on Boxing Day, to cancel it out with a brilliant free-kick in the 78th minute before setting up Abdelkader Belharane for the winner six minutes later.

Unlike the Algiers trip where Gor’s defensive frailties and profligate attack were heavily exposed as they were reduced to a bunch of mooching, stumbling green-shirted spectators, at Nyayo K’Ogalo looked a bit more organised and comfortable with the ball before they crumbled again in the second half.

While Gor were seeking redemption, the Algerians were out to assert the North African teams’ dominance against the Kenyans.

Gor Mahia FC's Bertrand Konfor (left) and Amir Sayoudof CR Belouizdad, Algeria, during the second leg CAF Champions League at Nyayo National Stadium on Wednesday, Jan 6, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

No broadcast

The return of captain Kenneth Muguna from injury gave Gor Mahia some inspiration as he released through Ulimwengu for the opener in a match that was marred by some broadcast rights (live stream) controversy between the hosts and Football Kenya Federation (FKF).

The unpleasing broadcasting incidents aside, Gor appears to have shot themselves in the foot ahead of the first round encounter. The players had mentally and physiologically lost the two-legged fixture even before stepping onto the pitch.

Just like the first leg, the build-up to this game had been overshadowed by the news of poor preparation from Gor Mahia camp, unstable technical bench and players’ go-slows due to unpaid salaries.

Though Kenyan teams have seen worse losses against North African oppositions in the recent past, Gor’s 8-1 humiliation at the hands of Belouizdad looked like a repeat of the embarrassing 6-0 defeat to Cameroon’s Cannon Yaounde in the reverse tie of the 1979 African Cup Winners’ Cup final. The Cameroonian side won the trophy 8-0 on aggregate following their 2-0 victory in the first leg fixture in Nairobi

Last year, Gor Mahia also lost 6-1 on aggregate to another Algerian side USM Alger at the same stage of this competition.

But from AFC Leopards’ 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Egyptian giants Al Ahly in 1987 to Gor’s 5-0 defeat to Tunisia’s Esperance in 2014 and Zamalek (2011) and Smouha (2017) both hammering Ulinzi Stars 4-0, North African teams have been a hard nut to crack for Kenyan clubs.

Gor Mahia has been knocked out of this year’s Champions League not because they were ‘weak’ but because of poor preparation, lack of quality, the magnitude of the disaster and accumulation of errors both individually and collectively.

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