AT THE KERICHO GREEN STADIUM
The pitch may have been soggy but there was nothing slippery about the performance.
This was a show of real character and fighting spirit by Gor Mahia, coming all guns blazing from the opening minute to the end to be crowned champions of Kenya for an unprecedented 16th time with four matches to spare.
Medie Kagere has scored 11 goals in the SportPesa Premier League this season, most of them important, but Saturday’s winner against Ulinzi Stars must rank top in the list of his most crucial goals in his illustrious career.
The Ugandan-born Rwandan striker found himself all alone with goalkeeper Timothy Odhiambo in the 12th minute here to slot home the opener - and the only goal of the match - after he was released by Francis Kahata.
Gor's foreign legion of Karim Nizigiyimana, Jean-Baptiste Mugiraneza, Jacques Tuyisenge, Godfrey Walusimbi and Kagere have played an integral part in K'Ogalo's successful bid to wrestle down the crown from last seasons winners Tusker - with Tuyisenge and Kagere scoring 23 goals for the new champions.
Even Ulinzi Stars coach Benjamin Nyangweso, who led the soldiers to their last title in 2010, found it hard to ignore Gor's swashbuckling performances especially in the second half of the season in his post-match comments.
“They changed the tune in the second leg and for sure they deserve to be champions. Our weak point has been failing to convert chances like today the boys fought hard but did not hit the back of the net,” said Nyangweso.
Gor have attained an unassailable lead of 66 points, 15 ahead of second-placed Sofapaka after 30 rounds. Gor players can now rest easy and prepare for a guard of honour in their last four games against Zoo Kericho, Sony Sugar, Kakamega Homeboyz and Western Stima.
Gor coach Dylan Kerr, who took over from Brazilian Jose Marcelo Ferreira mid this season, hailed his boys for the display.
“Every team targets to beat Gor Mahia but my players fight always like they did in the second half. They simply wanted maximum points and I must thank them because now the pressure is never on us," said Kerr.
“But we are not yet done yet. We maximum full points in our remaining matches. The players work hard and as a team we do the right things though at times we let the foot off the gas but it wasn’t the case today. I want the fans to enjoy by winning in remaining games."
Englishman Kerr’s charges kicked off the match with vigour and were clearly out to finish business early. George Odhiambo and Tuyisenge had sniffs at goal in the opening 10 minutes but their attempts were thwarted by Ulinzi backline led by Hassan Mohammed.
Ulinzi’s defence was finally breached in the 12th minute when they couldn’t stop Kagere from beating Odhiambo for his eleventh goal of the current campaign.
Tuyisenge could have doubled their lead on 22 minutes but the Rwandan striker chose to go for power over precision in a one-on-one against Odhiambo after he had been teed up by Kenneth Muguna.
Ulinzi’s first real chance at goal was wasted by Bernard Ongoma, after he chose to let fly from outside the area in the 25th minute. Four minutes later, the hosts won a free kick after Harun Shakava brought down Samuel Onyango just outside the box, but Hassan blasted wide off the mark.
With half an hour gone and the Soldiers midfield looking weak, Benjamin Nyangweso pulled out off-colour Boniface Onyango for youngster Ibrahim Shambi.
Kenyan international winger Samuel Onyango raced down the left flank but his dangerous cross was cleared off the line by skipper Musa Mohammed with nine minutes to the break.
Desperate to get back into the match and rain on Gor Mahia's parade, Ulinzi introduced Daniel Waweru and Mark Bikokwa for Cliff Kasuti and Kokoyo in the 51st and 69th minutes but none could engineer a comeback.
It was Gor who threatened to extend their lead, with Kagere and Tuyisenge both guilty of missing crucial chances.
K’Ogalo won the title in 2015 with five matches after a hard fought 1-0 victory over Sony Sugar at the Nyayo Stadium on September 16. Innocent Wafula scored the all-important goal.