Record Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia left it late to celebrate Mashujaa Day with a 1-0 win over stubborn Kariobangi Sharks in a thrilling match at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru on Sunday.
The 18-time champions were made to wait until stoppage time and it's Ghanaian Francis Afriyie, who came in for off-colour Ivorian Gnamien Yikpe, who found the breakthrough.
With the match poised to end in a barren draw, another substitute Kennedy Otieno unleashed a volley from the right wing that came off the upright and the ball fell kindly for an unmarked Afriyie who rounded Sharks goalkeeper John Oyemba before slotting into an empty net.
“I am very excited for scoring a goal in this match given that our performance was not at its best,” said Afriyie.
"I am happy my boys were sharper and aggressive in the last quarter. In football, the final whistle determines the winner and today we were made to wait until the last minute," said Gor Mahia coach Steven Polack.
A disappointed Kariobangi Sharks coach William Muluya claimed Afriyie scored from an offside position.
“We should have at least shared the spoils if not winning the match but we lost through poor officiating,” said Muluya.
Gor strikers barely troubled Oyemba in the first half and hardly made any dangerous moves that are associated with the champions.
Gor's best chance arrived at half hour mark but the impressive Boniface Omondi sent his rasping shot over the bar. Sharks replied through Nixon Omondi but his header sailed over the bar in the 35th minute.
On resumption, Gor coach Steve Polack introduced Dickson Ambundo for Samuel Onyango while Kennedy Otieno replaced Boniface Omondi. His opposite number William Muluya brought in Sydney Lokale and Harrison Mwendwa for Daniel Sakari and Shaphan Oyugi respectively.
Ambundo, who added some punch to the hitherto blunt Gor striking force, nearly scored at the hour mark following a throw-in by Geoffrey Ochieng but his header missed the target by inches.
Two minutes later, Ambundo outpaced his markers on the left wing but his brilliant pass went begging.