Kenyan giants Gor Mahia will face Nigerian champions Lobi Stars in the African Champions League first leg match at the Moi Sports Center Kasarani Sunday with so much at stake.
K’Ogalo as Gor Mahia are nicknamed will be seeking to put themselves in pole position to qualify for the group stage of the Africa’s top club championship for the first time by using the home advantage to register a favorable result ahead of the return leg next weekend.
It will mark 38 years since the 17 times Kenyan champions last faced a Nigerian side at the continental level. The 1987 CAF Winners’ Cup champions came up against Nigeria’s Bendel Insurance in the second round of the 1980 edition of the Africa Cup of Champions (present day Champions League).
Bendel then boasted big names who played for the Green Eagles (presently the Super Eagles) including David Adiele, Kadiri Ikhana, Sam Okpodu and Felix Agnonifo.
Gor Mahia were equally formidable and had within their ranks the likes of Allan Thigo, still regarded as the best midfielder Kenya has ever produced, Ugandan legend Tim Ayieko and Nahashon Oluoch “Lule”, who made history by being voted among top 10 best players in Africa in 1979 while still in high school.
The first leg in Nigeria staged at Ogbe Stadium, Benin City, Edo State, ended 2-1 in favor of Gor Mahia but Bendel pulled a shock return leg performance to win 3-2 at the City Stadium to progress.
Ahead of today’s clash, Gor Mahia’s new Turkish Cypriot coach Hassan Oktay is upbeat his charges can kick-start quest for more history by getting a good result against the Ortom Boys.
“It’s very important for us and for them as well, because we have home advantage on Sunday and we are going to focus on that game with the technical bench, I believe we are going to get a good result from there,” said Oktay.
Oktay registered his first win in charge with a morale boosting 4-0 victory against Zoo FC in the Kenyan Premier League Wednesday, atoning for a 2-1 away defeat to Bandari FC in the league opener previously.
He is expected to welcome back Kenya international Francis Kahata, whose reported move to Algeria is doubtful, Kenneth Muguna and Rwandan striker Jacques Tuyisenge, who have both recovered from injuries.
Kahata did not feature against Malawi’s Nyasa Big Bullets in the preliminary round to allow him tie a deal to either CS Constantine or USM Alger of Algeria but to date nothing has materialized.
Lobi Stars, who made it to the group stage of the 2002 campaign, on the other hand warmed up to the Kenya tour with a 7-1 thumping of their reserve side 7-1. The Ortom Boys also beat Enugu Rangers to win the 2018 Nigerian Super Cup.
On the road to the date with Gor Mahia, Lobi Stars edged out Cameroon’s UMS de Loum 2-1 on aggregate. They lost the first leg 1-0 away before turning the tables 2-0 at home.
Head coach Solomon Ogbeide is equally buoyant but is a little bit worried about effects of high altitude they will encounter in Kenya.
“Of course we know that Gor Mahia are a very big club from Kenya but the business is the match on the field of play and Lobi Stars are also a big team.
We are not worried because we have all it takes to do well on the continent. We have the personnel in terms of players but above all we have God,” Solomon told CAF Online.
Some players to watch out for in the team includes striker Samad Kadiri and Sikiru Alimi, who was signed from Warri Wolves.
The game will kick-off at 4.00pm Kenyan time. Ticket charges includes Ksh 500 – VIP, Ksh 200 – Russia.
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