It all seemed destined to end in a draw and for a frustrating a third in a row until a late Collins Okoth strike in extra time earned Gor Mahia a crucial victory over City Stars at Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The defending champions were for a second week in a row looking to close down the gap between them and league leaders Tusker FC who had played out to a draw in an earlier encounter and put up a much better performance compared to their last week display.
Coach Ze Maria made a few changes to his line-up and the start against City Stars was bright. Eric Ouma was pushed forward into an attacking role with the inclusion of Abouba Sibomana hit the flank fast and quick and delivered an early cross in the 5th minute but Kagere could not hit the target with a stylish backheel connection at the end.
Three minutes later Ouma went for glory from outside the box having noticed Ronnie Kagunzi off his line, but his effort was well read by the City Stars custodian who stretched well to parry the ball off his top left corner. Then the visitors broke away, Ezekiel Odera feeding Jimmy Bageya wide on the left and the Ugandan raced into the area but could not beat Bonface Oluoch from close range the goalkeeper doing well with a low diving save.
The match tempo was picking up well with both sides looking to take advantage. Tuyisenge tested Kagunzi with a headed effort after Kagere raced to the byline to deliver but the hit man could not pack more power to trouble the keeper in the 20th minute. But the break followed almost immediately, Shakava being in the right place to thump home the opening goal after Nizigiyimana delivered a cross back into the area from a corner clearance and opposition defense failed to deal.
But the lead was soon cut short and in a classy way by Ezekiel Odera in the 23rd minute. The striker received a pass from the midfield and flicked the ball over the Gor Mahia defensive line with a beautiful back heel and ran into a one-on-one situation with a helpless Oluoch before calmly slotting home to the bottom right.
Meddie Kagere connected to a Tuyisenge cross with a superb header but his effort was deflected out for a corner as the hunt for a way back into the lead intensified. But neither side could find the break through with Tuyisenge hitting the cross bar after he rose to connect a free kick delivery by Wafula in what was the last piece of first half action.
The visitors’ second half tact was more cautious allowing Gor Mahia to press more while they sat back in a well knitted defensive formation and occasionally looked to hit on the break. Coach Ze Maria introduced Baron Oketch in place of Innocent Wafula at the restart for more pace on the flank.
Kagunzi read a free kick effort from Tuyisenge well and dived low to turn the bottom right corner bound ball out for a corner. Baron Oketch should have done atleast hit the target on the hour mark after picking a second ball inside the area but he miscued his shot off target.
Sibomana too should have done better with his header in the 66th minute after Shakava turned back a long delivery from a corner his way, but he could not angle it down on target with the ball sailing over the cross. Jimmy Bageya had an opportunity on the opposite end after a poor clearance gave away possession to the visitors but the Ugandan talisman hurriedly fired wide of the right with Oluoch who was covering his near seemingly well beaten.
Anxiety and frustration filled the Nyayo Stadium environment as time ticked away. Enock Agwanda was sent in to add more punch and power in the Gor Mahia attack with Abouba matching off and Ouma sinking back into defense.
With City Stars seemingly contented with a draw and the game well into additional time, Agwanda took to the touchline to send in a long throw inviting numbers in the box. It indeed came in long, Shakava and Tuyisenge missed to connect with headers and the ball fell straight onto Okoth who fired home a late winner.
The victory sees Gor Mahia peel away from Mathare United and close in on leaders Tusker FC as the title race hots up.