Mathare United lived up to their bogey side tag with a deserved 1-0 win over Gor Mahia in a closely contested Kenyan Premier League at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Wednesday.
Daniel Otieno's thumping header with a minute to the end of regulation time was all Mathare needed to end Gor's 100 per cent start to the season in their rescheduled tie, just three days after K'Ogalo painfully bowed out of the Caf Confederation Cup at the hands of DC Motema Pembe in Kinshasa.
Gor last lost a league match in May, a 1-0 loss to Nzoia Sugar.
After a 1-1 draw in Nairobi, the Congolese giants won 2-1 in Kinshasa to advance to the group stage of the competition at K'Ogalo's expense.
Reports of a go-slow in the Gor Mahia camp on Tuesday clouded the pre-match talk before this fixture, and Mathare came out all guns blazing early on in Machakos.
The win took Mathare's tally to 14 in sixth place, two shy of leaders Tusker. Gor, who have two games in hand, remain second on 15 points. Mathare and Western Stima are the only sides in the league that are yet to taste defeat this term.
Stima moved to seventh with a stunning come-from-behind 3-1 win over Bandari in Kisumu also on Wednesday.
Gor Mahia did not train on Tuesday as the players were on a go slow over accrued salaries and allowances.
“Our build up to this match wasn’t the best and that explains why the players appeared rusty. I’m a professional and I expect everyone I work with to conduct themselves in the same way too,” Gor coach Steven Polack lamented.
“There are internal issues we have to sort. That said, nothing surprises me in African football. There are issues beyond our control but I feel my players should put some issues behind and fight every time they are on the pitch. It is very difficult at times and I understand.”
Mathare tactician Salim Ali was happy with the performance.
“We created a lot of chances and made one count. Gor have had a good run and are an experienced side so beating them is a positive sign that we are on the right track,” Ali said.
Gor came to this match with a depleted squad. Regular fullbacks Wellington Ochieng and Geoffrey Ochieng were the notable absentees as they returned from their Caf Confederation Cup loss to DC Motemba Pembe injured, with Joachim Oluoch and Lloyd Khavuchi taking their places.
Mathare took control of the match from the onset and could have taken the lead in the 18th minute but captain Chrispin Oduor shot wide from inside the box. Gor custodian David Mapigano did well to parry away David Owino’s low shot from inside the box at the half hour mark.
Gor Mahia launched a series of attacks towards the end of the first half but Ghanaian striker Francis Afriyie just couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net.
K’Ogalo brought in Tobias Otieno to replace Lawrence Juma after the breather and later Kennedy Otieno in place of Boniface Omondi. The Slum Boys replaced John Mwangi with Daniel Otieno in the 68th minute, Tyson Otieno came in for Chrispin Oduor on 75 minutes while veteran Clifford Alwanga was rested for Klinsman Omulanga two minutes later.
They appeared a much rejuvenated side and Mapigano, who was the busier custodian throughout the match, did well to deny Tyson in the 83rd minute after the youngster had dribbled past Charles Momanyi and Joash Onyango. He again put his body on the line to block an Omulanga shot from inside the box and play had to be stopped for a few minutes as medics attended to the Tanzanian keeper.
Daniel Otieno then rose highest to head home Kevin Kimani’s corner on 89 minutes to win it for the Slum Boys.