Nairobi — Bernard Ondiek stepped off the bench to score the winner in added time as Kenyan champions Gor Mahia beat Malawi's Nyasa Big Bullets 1-0 in the first leg of the CAF Champions League preliminary round at the Kasarani Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Having progressed into the first round from last season where they lost to eventual champions Esperance, Gor were eager to start well to keep their dream of making the group stages alive.
They were frustrated by the visitors who defended with gusto, but Ondiek thumped home the winner in the third minute of added time.
Stand in coach Zedekiah Otieno handed a debut to new signing Erisa Ssekisambu with the Ugandan starting in attack alongside Jacques Tuyisenge while the returning Kenneth Muguna played the creative role behind them.
Shafik Batambuze also slotted in straight to left back with Peter Odhiambo trusted between the sticks ahead of the experienced Boniface Oluoch.
It was a very tense start to the match, both sides choosing to keep their guns to themselves and none showing attacking potent.
Gor were dealt a massive blow 12 minutes into the match when their star striker Tuyisenge limped out injured and was replaced by Samuel Onyango.
K'Ogalo had their first opportunity at goal on the quarter hour mark when a corner floated in by Batambuze found Harun Shakava at the edge of the box, but the skipper's effort with a volley was not successful, the ball going over.
It remained a tactical battle between the two sides, none executing a shot on target for the entire opening half hour of the game.
In the 32nd minute, Bullets had their first effort at goal when McPhallen Ngwira let off a shot from distance but it deflected off Harun Shakava's back and went behind for a corner.
Ten minutes later, Muguna had a half chance for Gor when he dribbled in from the left, finding some comfortable shooting space but his eventual shot went high and wide.
A minute to halftime, Gor had their first effort on target when Muguna's cheeky dink from the edge of the area found a running Ssekisambu, but the Ugandan's effort to head the ball over the keeper was futile.
In the second half, Gor stepped up and thought they had scored eight minutes in when Onyango buried home from the six yard box off a Muguna freekick but the second assistant referee's flag was up for offside.
Ten minutes later, they had another chance when Odhiambo was teed up by Humphrey Mieno on the right but his eventual low shot went just wide off target.
Zico made his first change, Ssekisambu coming off for Francis Mustafa, a clear bid to add some legs into attack.
Gor kept the pressure and had another chance with quarter of an hour left when Onyango tried to rifle a shot from distance but it went straight into the goalkeeper's palms.
Sensing that pressure was building on their end, the visitors resorted to running down the clock going down at every opportunity, the Gor players growing frustrated every minute.
With a sense of urgency creeping in as the clock ricked away, the home side increased their attacks, but one could change the color of the scoreline.
However, when it looked headed for a draw, Ondiek picked up the ball inside the box to thump home after being put through by Mieno
A lover of sports who seeks to tell the African story in an African way. Top ten finalist of the Abu Dhabi Sports Media Pearl Awards. Be it on the pitch, court, track, pool or course, the story will be told. On twitter @KakaTimm