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Will in-form Leopards end Gor's dominance in Mashemeji derby?

FOOTBALL By Rodgers Eshitemi | February 7th 2021
A section of AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia supporters in a brief encounter at Kencom bus stop on Sunday, March 08 before the two teams played in their match dabbed Mashemeji derby at the Kasarani stadium. Collins Kweyu

There will be no love lost when Kenyan Premier League giants Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards renew their rivalry in the first leg of the Mashemeji derby to be played behind closed doors at Kasarani Stadium today (3pm).

Though the match will be played in a unique situation without fans, the bragging rights and the three points will still be at stake.

The two teams are coming off morale-boosting victories. Gor Mahia overcame Bandari 3-1 in Mombasa to move to the sixth spot with 15 points, three points behind fourth-placed AFC Leopards who beat Posta Rangers 2-1 at Kasarani.

However, the big question is, will the Elvis Rupia-led attack exploit K’Ogalo’s leaky defence and end their rivals’ dominance in the derby?

Or will Gor skipper Kenneth Muguna and company hand their new coach Manuel Vaz Pinto a winning derby debut as they aim to reassert their authority in the league and narrow the gap between them and table toppers Tusker.

Gor Mahia has never lost in the derby since falling 1-0 to Ingwe in June 2016.

Apart from Pinto, several K’Ogalo players led by Burundian striker Jules Ulimwengu, Ugandan-born forward Tito Okello, Alpha Onyango, Andrew Juma, John Macharia  and their new Brazilian signing Wilson Silva Fonseca are likely to have a taste of the derby for the first time this afternoon.

Kenyan international Harun Shakava, who recently rejoined Gor, the record Kenyan champions from Nkana Red Devils of Zambia, could also feature at the heart of the defence.

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It could be the same scenario with youngster Lewis Bandi, Peter Thiong’o, Bienvenue Shaka and Harrison Mwendwa on the Anthony Kimani-coached side.

New AFC Leopards coach Belgian Patrick Aussems is expected to watch the match from the stands.

Though captains from both sides, Muguna (Gor Mahia) and Robinson Kamura (AFC Leopards), have downplayed the significance of today’s fixture, the clash could go a long way in determining their title chances this season.

A win for either side will see them close in on in-form Tusker (26 points) who extended their unbeaten run to ten-games with a 1-0 victory over a resilient Wazito on Friday.

Although form does not play a big role when it comes to FKF Premier League’s Mashemeji derby, there are a few players who are likely to have a great impact on the result.

We take a look at ten players who could play a key role in determining today’s derby.

Gor Mahia

Gor Mahia goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch against Nasr Athletic Hussein Dey from Algeria during their CAF Confederation Cup group D match at Kasarani Stadium on Sunday 24/02/19. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Boniface Oluoch

Oluoch is arguably one of the most experienced players in the FKF Premier League at the moment. And having played in a couple of derbies, he knows what is required in a match of such calibre. His performance will determine the result of the day as he comes face to face with the Elvis Rupia-led attack.  

Charles Momanyi

Though the lanky defender is one of the players who has come under a lot of criticism due to Gor Mahia’s sloppiness, he is expected to play a big role in today’s fixture. Momanyi is the man who will be tasked with the role of stopping the in-form AFC Leopards striker Elvis Rupia.   

Kenneth Muguna

Very skilled and talented attacking midfielder with a knack for splitting open defences as well as scoring. The captain has been the rock  of Gor Mahia’s style of play, undisputedly covering every blade of grass in centre pitch as well as being involved in almost all the goals scored by champions in the league so far. If he combines well with Ernest Wendo and Alpha Onyango, they are bound to neutralise AFC Leopards’ penetration through the midfield. Muguna has been a deciding factor in most of the recent derbies.

Alpha Onyango

The Kakamega High School alumnus who was promoted to Gor Mahia senior team last year has emerged as one of the revelations of the season so far. Onyango has every reason to become one of the best players in Kenya and help Gor Mahia retain the title. His ability in partnership with Kenneth Muguna to link up the midfield and the strikers has been excellent. He could be Manuel Vaz Pinto’s secret weapon in the derby. He will be one of the players to watch on their derby debuts.  

Jules Ulimwengu

The Burundian’s four goals in the FKF Premier League have already shown why the Kenyan giants went for his services in the offseason. With his great positional ability, it is certain that Ulimwengu will stretch AFC Leopards’ defence if not marked.

AFC Leopards

AFC Leopards' Goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan during KPL Match at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Saturday, Oct 2, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard] .

Benjamin Ochan

Save for the three goals he conceded when AFC Leopards lost to Western Stima (2-0) and Wazito (1-0), Ochan has been invaluable to Ingwe since he joined the den in July 2019 from Zambian side Kabwe Warrior. His reflex action has been superb, but AFC Leopards’ attempt to break Gor Mahia dominance in the derby today will rest heavily on the Ugandan’s shoulders.

Robinson Kamura

AFC Leopards have struggled in the defence in the past few seasons, but it appears captain Robinson Kamura has finally brought the stability required at the heart of the defence. There is a weird type of energy that Kamura carries every time he plays in the derby. AFC Leopards will bank on the deadball specialist, who is also commanding in air, to tame Burundian striker Jules Ulimwengu.

Lewis Bandi

The youngster has already shown glimpses of genuine quality in his last two full matches (Kariobangi Sharks and Posta Rangers) since he replaced the injured Isaac Kipyegon in their match against KCB. It will be interesting to see how he handles Samuel Onyango on his derby debut.

Collins Shichenje

The defensive midfielder has been one of the most consistent players at AFC Leopards. Though results in the last two derbies didn’t go Ingwe’s way, Shichenje bossed the midfield making the likes of Lawrence Juma and Kenneth Muguna look ordinary. He has been at the heart of everything good in Ingwe’s performance in this campaign. If Gor Mahia can nullify his partnership with Austine Odhiambo today, then they have a great chance of continuing with their dominance in the derby.

Elvis Rupia

Without doubt, he is one the deadliest strikers in the FKF Premier League and if the ten goals he has scored are anything to go by. It is because of his form that AFC Leopards have been considered title contenders. He is a direct striker who has always capitalised on defensive errors to secure wins for Ingwe. He will definitely be key if AFC Leopards are to come out of the derby with the maximum points.

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