The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya/Tanzania: Towel or a Charm?

Superstition showed its face again as Tanzanian goalkeeper Ivo Mapunda produced a performance of heroic proportions to help Gor Mahia beat Sofapaka 3-0 on post match penalties to retain the Football Kenya Cup title.

But it was the ubiquitous white towel he kept in goal the opposing players were more concerned about. Sofapaka's Eugene Asike and Abdalla Juma saw their penalties saved by Mapunda while Humphrey Mieno watched in disbelief as his effort came off the crossbar.

Gor scored all three though Ivan Anguyo, Moses Odhiambo and Rama Salim. George Owino just like Eric Masika and Charles Okwemba had done in the semi final, grabbed the towel from Mapunda's net late in the second half of the match that ended goalless in regulation time. He tossed it away in apparent belief there was something fishy about it and where Mapunda kept placing it.

"I was surprised such a group of very experienced players could pay such attention to a simple towel. It is just a normal towel I use to wipe sweat," Mapunda said yesterday. But it appears that is what he should have told his opponents. Mapunda's form, to them, was beyond belief.

Saying it was daring is an over simplification Mapunda produced one save straight from the top draw. He tipped Joseph Nyaga's powerful drive onto the upright and from point blank range the ever reliable John Baraza, with the yawning goal at his mercy, skied his effort from five yards.

"My reflexes were just spot on. It has nothing to with external influences. I personally do not believe in supernatural powers when it comes to football, "Mapunda said.

Sofapaka were the dominant side in the 90 minutes of play. After a cagey first half Sofapaka led by the irrepressible Mieno took control of the game but they had to wait until the 79th minute before Mieno's corner was headed on towards goal by Asike only for the ball to come off the upright.

Nyaga then curled a cross for Baraza at the far post but he missed his header completely with the Tanzanian goalkeeper scrambling to find his feet.

Three minuets from time Odhiambo missed the chance to win the match for Gor in regulation time. He hesitated after Duncan Ochieng had parried substitute Victor Ali's effort into his path. Mieno then forced some scrambled saves by Mapunda and his defenders from inswinging corners as the match went into extra time.

David Ouma's Sofapaka continued their domination and when Elly Asieche escaped the attentions of Chris Wekesa to cross the ball in first half extra time Nyaga controlled the ball and struck a vicious shot at goal which Mapunda spilled but Baraza failed to capitalise on.

The inevitable gamble of penalties came in and Mapunda rose to the occasion to ensure Gor finished their season on a high and claimed a place in next years CAF Continent Cup.

Gor coach Zdravko Logarusic was magnanimous in victory pointing out that Sofapaka in his opinion were the best team in the country.

"A few weeks after I came here I thought Sofapaka were the best team in the country and from their game today they have showed that and I think they will be our biggest challengers next season" he said.

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