Oktay, Mbungo Pick Positives From Colourful Mashemeji Derby

Feb 11 - by Louis Kalinga for SportPesa News

Gor and Leopards head coaches experienced a first taste of the eternal fixture of Kenya's most decorated clubs where the former led his side to a 2-0 success

Rival AFC Leopards SC (left) and Gor Mahia FC fans exchange greeting ahead of the 85th Mashemeji Derby at the MISC Kasarani on Saturday, February 8, 2019. PHOTO/SPN

  • With the high tension and huge stakes to consider, the 85th meeting of the two most-decorated clubs in the country passing without incident where football was indeed the winner
  • It was a sight to behold as rival supporters happily posed together in the booth to show their undying passion for their teams in the hope of bagging the attractive prize that will see the winning couple whisked away to a getaway that includes dinner, breakfast and lunch next Saturday (February 16)
  • In contrast, the mood at the Den was that of desolation with Leopards staring at the prospect of being dragged into a dreaded relegation dogfight as opposed to fighting for the SPL title

NAIROBI, Kenya- Joy for Gor Mahia FC. Commiserations to AFC Leopards SC. That is the brief summary of another colourful Mashemeji Derby played last Saturday at the MISC Kasarani that saw the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) titleholders race to a 2-0 victory over their chief domestic rivals.

With the high tension and huge stakes to consider, the 85th meeting of the two most-decorated clubs in the country passing without incident where football was indeed the winner.

Jubilant Green Army fans of Gor left the grandest sporting edifice pumped up for the season as their adversaries from the Den went home with stinging defeat ringing in their ears, aching for the glory days when their beloved Leopards used to roar with pride. 

Thousands of supporters trooped to Kasarani as Nairobi erupted into a sea of green, blue and white as Gor and Leopards faithful congregated yet again for the eternal double, with the din they created shattering the usual hustle and bustle of the robust Kenyan capital.

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Global bookmakers, SportPesa who are the title partners of both domestic giants spiced up the occasion by setting up a photo booth in their activation area where couples stood a chance of winning a dream Valentines’ Day giveaway.

It was a sight to behold as rival supporters happily posed together in the booth to show their undying passion for their teams in the hope of bagging the attractive prize that will see the winning couple whisked away to a getaway that includes dinner, breakfast and lunch next Saturday (February 16).

Bragging rights

When action got underway, it was the Green Army that won the bragging rights over their Mashemeji (in-laws) after Kenneth Muguna made the most of a Leopards defensive error early in the first half to open the scoring before a Francis Kahata free-kick in the 64th, sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory.

It was a stark reminder of the chasm between the two teams in recent times with Leopards yet to beat their fiercest rivals since March 2016 as Gor (22) opened a yawning 12-point gap in second place over their opponents (10) who are languishing in 15th.

It was the first Mashemeji Derby for both coaches involved- Hassan Oktay of Gor and Leopards’ boss Andre Casa Mbungo who joined the team only four days to the game.

“We dominated the whole game and it was a good result for the team. First half we could have made it 3-0 and the final score should have read four or five goals in our favour but nonetheless I’m pleased with the result,” Oktay told SportPesa News after the pulsating encounter.

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Majority of the Gor faithful were looking forward to watching Kenya’s record goal scorer, Dennis Oliech, who has revived his career with the club feature in his first derby but it was not to be as the former Ligue 1 player picked up a knock during training, keeping him out of the fixture.

“He will be fine. He is part of the team that is travelling to Angola for the midweek game,” Oktay remarked as he shifted focus on their visit to Petro Atletico of Luanda for their second Group D CAF Confederations Cup fixture.

The Turkish Cypriot who succeeded two-time SPL title-winning Briton Dylan Kerr at K’Ogalo revelled in the success over the old enemy that left his team only three points adrift of frontrunners Mathare United FC with a game in hand.

Massive game

“Derby games are always tough and it’s hard to call but we came out on top and I congratulate to my players.

“We have to travel to Angola, we have a massive game there and unfortunately we will not get enough rest before our next league game,” the tactician who is seeking to lead his side to a record-extending 18th domestic league crown offered.

Gor will depart Nairobi on Tuesday ahead of their Petro Atletico clash that kicks off at 7pm East African Time (+3GMT) aiming at holding on to their lead following their 4-2 crushing of Egyptian giants and five-time African champions Zamalek in their opening fixture in Nairobi.

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“We can only get better. I have a good team and as long as we continue to work together, we can become the best version of ourselves,” Oktay stressed after his team recorded their fourth victory on the bounce after a shaky start to the campaign.

In contrast, the mood at the Den was that of desolation with Leopards staring at the prospect of being dragged into a dreaded relegation dogfight as opposed to fighting for the SPL title.

Only three points separate them from the bottom having lost their sixth SPL match of the campaign, with hopes of ending their 21-year title drought all but over following a fourth defeat in as many matches.

“I’ve only been here for a week and we have already played two games in that short period of time.

“Tactically we were okay today, the only problem was our positioning as we defended set pieces and we will work on that during training this week,” their crestfallen new coach Mbungo offered.

Mbungo, who is Leopards third coach this term, gave compatriot Eric Ndayishimiye a rare start in goal with former Thika United FC midfielder Saad Musa part of the starting 11 as well but his team could not offer the kind of resistance their suffering fans crave.

To their credit, faithful sided with his decision to include Musa, who had found his opportunities in the team limited before Mbungo’s arrival with the former simply Leopards most threatening player throughout the first half.

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Musa also created a scoring chance to level the contest in the second half before he was taken off and replaced by his former teammate at Thika, Eugene Mukangula.

“I have some injured players hence the choice to pick the 11 that started the game and they put in a good shift.

“We created a few chances and were unlucky not to score but the level of football was good and all we can do is pick ourselves up and improve,” the Rwandese tactician underlined.

Despite a sixth successive loss to Gor, plenty of Leopards supporters left the stadium still beating their drums and cheering in the hope gloomy days are behind them and the only way is up.

Their next assignment will be against 2010 winners Ulinzi Stars FC this Saturday and a win could see them jump up four places on the SPL log depending on other results of teams around them.

“It has been a tough start to the year and the last four games have been the worst. Though I believe in my team and I know we can turn things around and finish in a top position,” Magdalene Onyancha, a staunch Leopards fan lamented.

It was a sight to behold as rival supporters happily posed together in the booth to show their undying passion for their teams in the hope of bagging the attractive prize that will see the winning couple whisked away to a getaway that includes dinner, breakfast and lunch next Saturday (February 16). PHOTO/SPN