Clifford Alwanga scored a late equalizer to secure a point for Mathare United against Gor Mahia in a hotly contested top of the table clash played at the Kenyatta Stadium on Sunday.
Jacques Tuyisenge’s first half brace cancelled out Francis Omondi’s opener to ensure the league leaders headed for the breather on the ascendancy. However a spirited second half display was finally crowned by Alwanga’s goal to settle the tie at 2-2.
Both sides came into this match on the back of contrasting results with Gor Mahia having drawn 2-2 against Chemelil Sugar while Mathare lost 0-1 to Wazito. However it was the absence of key players Mathare skipper George Owino and Gor’s first choice keeper Boniface Oluoch that dominated the pre-match talk.
K’Ogalo made their intentions for an early goal known early on camping in the hosts’ half but could not churn out a real chance with Innocent Wafula’s dipping cross the only scare for custodian Robert Mboya who was returning from injury.
Then Mathare grabbed the opener on the other end against the run of play. Cliff Nyakeya won a freekick at the edge of the box after being fouled in an aerial battle with Joash Onyango. Francis Omondi stepped forward to take the freekick and he produced a master class, calmly slotting home at Shaban Odhoji’s near post beneath his wall.
Even before the handful Mathare fans could enjoy the wonder goal from Omondi, Gor Mahia drew level. Referee Davies Omweno awarded Gor a penalty after David Owino was adjudged to have fouled in the box. Tuyisenge packed a lot of power in his kick to restore parity despite Mboya getting his palm on the ball.
He should have doubled his tally moments later when he latched on a cross from George Odhiambo but his effort was made in a rush and the ball flew wide off target. A lull period ensued thereafter before Humphrey Mieno missed a glorious opportunity to send Gor ahead.
Harun Shakava floated his delivery from a freekick into the box where a poor headed clearance from Gilbert Osonga presented the ball to Mieno unmarked in the box. However the midfielder skies his effort from close range.
The absence of George Owino was telling at the heart of the Mathare defence with the youthful pair of Johnstone Omurwa and Osonga struggling to cope with the experienced Gor attack of Tuyisenge and Meddie Kagere.
That inexperience partly contributed to Tuyisenge’s second goal as poor communication between Mboya and his center backs saw them fail to deal with a long ball clipped into the area by Francis Kahata.
With Mboya off his line, he failed to gather cleanly. Kagere drew the lose ball and dribbled past Mboya before sending his shot to an unguarded post. A recovering Osonga managed to clear off the goal line but his clearance could only go as far as Tuyisenge who buried home to hand Gor the advantage at half time.
The Slum Boys watched in dismay as Chris Ochieng’s effort cannoned off the bar shortly after the restart. A well worked passing regime found Samuel Ndung’u in acres of space on the right and he did well to find Ochieng’ with a low cross. Determined to score in his first start of the season, Ochieng’ stuck out his foot to connect and he beat Odhoji but not the bar.
That was Ndungu’s last contribution to the game as he was replaced by Alwanga. Kahata, a joy to watch all afternoon, stung Mboya’s palms with a fierce drive from a tight angle on the left as Dylan Kerr’s charges sought to cushion their lead.
Omondi almost completed his brace at the hour mark once again from a set piece but his effort was tipped over the bar by Odhoji from 20 yards out. With his charges now dominating proceedings, Francis Kimanzi introduced Martin Ongori for Osonga to add width on the right.
Cliff Nyakeya had a chance to get the leveler after being played clean through on goal by Alwanga but his effort crashed on the side netting with Odhoji having cleverly narrowed his angles.
Kerr beefed up his attack with the introduction of Ivorian Ephraim Guikan and Samuel Onyango and the latter almost brought the moment the Gor faithful silently craved.
Kahata, at his destructive best, played Onyango clean through with a clever through ball. However Mboya made himself big enough to produce his best save of the afternoon and inspire hope in his side.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Kimanzi sent John Mwangi into the fray to beef up his attack. Seda forced Odhoji to a one hand save with a glancing header from Ongori’s cross but there was nobody to slam the rebound home and Shakava eventually cleared.
As the full time whistle came close, Mathare kept the belief and they got the equalizer they truly deserved. Once again they used Gor Mahia’s left channel, working the ball to Ongori who delivered yet another teasing cross that was clinically swept home by Alwanga to ensure both sides shared the spoils.
The point leaves Mathare United second with 24 points, three behind Gor who have two games in hand.
Starting XI: 1. Robert Mboya (GK) 16. David Owino 25. Samuel Olwande 28. Gilbert Osonga (66’ 20.Martin Ongori) 19. Johnstone Omurwa 5. Francis Omondi 4. Edward Seda 29. Chrispin Oduor 11. Cliff Nyakeya 7. Samuel Ndung’u (50’ 21. Clifford Alwanga) 9. Chris Ochieng’ (81’ 13.John Mwangi)
Unused subs: 30. Job Ochieng’ (GK) 22. Roy Okal 8. Alphonce Ndonye 15. Ronald Reagan