IN DAR ES SALAAM
Defending champions Azam on Wednesday beat Gor Mahia 2-0 after extra time to sail into the Cecafa Kagame Cup final in a tough semi-final match at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Ditrim Nchimbi and Bruce Kangwa goals in extra time goals sent the defending champions into the final where they will face the winner of the other semi-final pitting Simba against Zanzibar's JKU.
Gor and Azam had played to a goalless draw in regular time before Nchimbi broke the deadlock in the 92nd minute with a shot from outside 18 after Gor defenders failed to clear Yahya Zayd’s shot that had been blocked by Harun Shakava.
Desperate for an equaliser, Gor pushed men upfront but were denied by Azam goalkeeper Razak Abalora’s splendid saves and eight minutes later, Kangwa delightfully broke on the counter, beat his marker Charles Momanyi with pace to slot home from the near post past a hapless Boniface Oluoch.
There was drama prior to kick-off, with Gor's playing unit and officials refusing to use their designated dressing room here so as to “avoid witchcraft” that could allegedly influence the outcome of the match. They instead opted to use the verandah just at the entrance of the 60,000-seater stadium.
The Kenyan champions looked lacklustre early on in the much-hyped semi-final, a repeat of the 2015 final which Azam won by a similar scoreline except that they didn't need extra time three years ago.
“We lost to a compact team, we gave them possession and they utilised their moments,” said Gor coach Dylan Kerr in the post-match interview attributing the loss to pre-match incident.
“I don’t understand at times my technical team, we were frustrated and shocked at how we wouldn’t use the dressing rooms, what happened in 2015 may be contributed to this, and psychologically this affected my players because they were thinking about it heading into the game,” lamented Kerr.
His opposite number Hans Van der Pluijm maintained he is targeting to retain the regional title.
George “Blackberry” Odhiambo was the first to test Azam shot-stopper with a 13th minute shot from the edge of the box.
Benard Ondiek, who replaced injured Ernest Wendo in one of the two changes from the team that beat Vipers 2-1 on Sunday, had a powerful header from a Godfrey Walusimbi corner veer off target at the stroke of halftime.
Ivorian striker Ephrem Guikan, who took the place of quarterfinal match hero Francis Mustafa in the other change, was ineffective in the first half prompting Kerr to bring on defender Joash Onyango in his place at the start of the second half.
The changes saw Odhiambo partner Jacques Tuyisenge upfront while Bernard Ondiek, who would paved way for Lawrence Juma in the 71st minute, dropped in central midfield alongside Humphrey Mieno and Philemon Otieno.
Mustafa’s introduction 11 minutes to the final whistle brought life into Gor’s attack. Walusimbi’s free kick from the edge of the box was easily picked by Abalora late on, the regular time ending in a scoreless draw.