Gor Mahia came from behind to salvage a draw at the Martyrs of Benina stadium in Benghazi, Libya when they played a significant international friendly match with Al Hilal Sports Club.
Samuel Onyango struck from range to cancel out Ali Alsharif’s 5th minute strike but both teams went on to miss numerous chances to raise the scoreline.
Libya has not seen international fixtures since 2011 when a debilitating civil war broke out and hope to inform the world that the country is now safe to host such fixtures.
The mood inside the stadium was carnival with tight security as residents cheered virtually every move their team made towards K’Ogalo’s goal.
Al Hilal got their dream start when in the 5th minute skipper Ali Alsharif perfectly timed his run to beat Gor Mahia center backs Charles Momanyi and Joachim Oluoch and their offside trap to score the game’s opening goal.
The Al Hilal skipper however, needed two takes to beat Boniface Oluoch who made a great block to deny his first effort. Oluoch was powerless when Alsharif got a second invitation and the handful fans who braved the evening chill to witness their first international football match broke out in jubilant chants.
Gor Mahia rallied after conceding the early goal with Coach Steven Polack barking out instructions to his charges. The hosts continue to trouble Gor Mahia with speedy wingers and intelligent flicks behind the back four.
Tobias Otieno, playing a more advanced midfield role first came close for K’Ogalo with a 22nd minute effort that flashed menacingly across goal. Gor Mahia got bolder and it was Tobias again who won a free kick when brought down just outside the box.
Momanyi latched on to the floated ball and powered a header towards goal but the onrushing goalkeeper parried and the ball hit Momanyi on its way out for goal kick. The Kenyan champions soon attained parity through Samuel Onyango who whipped a power low shot into the the right side of Al Hila goal.
Clifton Miheso had found Nicholas Kipkirui outside the box with a tantalizing cross. The forward weighed his options and teed the ball nicely to Onyango who shot first time to score.
A bizarre occurrence in the 43rd minute sent shivers on K’Ogalo and raised excitement among host fans as Boniface Oluoch stooped and picked up a back pass from Momanyi and the referee awarded an indirect free kick inside the box.
Gor Mahia mounted a nine-man wall inside the box and it proved imperious as the hosts shot low. The ball came off the wall for a corner which did not yield much for the expectant hosts.
Gor Mahia made a triple substitution at the start of second half sending on Dickson Ambundo, Francis Afriyie and Gnamien Yikpe for Nicholas Kipkirui, Fredrick Otieno and Miheso.
The introduction of the three forwards failed to intimidate a determined Al Hilal who made the first attempt, a low shot in the 57th minute that troubled Olouch and required two efforts to tame.
It was then Gor Mahia’s turn to attack with Ambundo managing to run through on goal in the 59th minute. His attempt to pull back the ball and find a teammate flopped when his effort failed to reach its target.
K’Ogalo introduced Youth Team graduate Alphonse Omija in place of makeshift right back Bernard Ondiek. Shortly afterwards Elvis Ronack replaced Momanyi at the center of defense as both teams displayed great passing game.
K’Ogalo spurned a wonderful chance to take the lead when miscommunication between Ambundo and Gnamien saw the duo all miss a gloriously floated cross by Afriyie in the 72nd minute.
The hosts engaged a higher gear in the dying minutes pinning K’Ogalo deep into their half and needing almost everyone to defend to stay at par. Oluoch made a wonderful save in the 90th minute, diding low to punch out a close range shot after the defense was beaten by a free kick flaoted behind.
Tobias Otieno had committed a fould and became the only name in referee’s book owing to his ramming challenge on Faisal Albadri.