Nairobi — Often receiving stick for his performances for the record Kenyan Premier League champions, goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch was vital as Gor Mahia progressed to the first round of the CAF Champions League with a 4-3 post-match penalties win over Malawi’s Nyasa Big Bullets in Blantyre on Wednesday.
The game was forced into penalties after Bullets won the return tie 1-0 to push the aggregate score to 1-1 with Gor having won by a solitary goal in the first leg in Nairobi last week.
Oluoch endeared himself to the Gor faithful making a crucial penalty save in the 87th minute with Nyasa leading 1-0, an otherwise result that would have meant K’Ogalo bow out of continental football unless they scored a goal within the remaining six minutes.
Heading into the shoot-out, Oluoch saved once while another of Nyasa’s penalties hit the crossbar as the Kenyan charges progressed to the next round scoring all their four kicks.
Gor will now play the winner between Nigeria’s Lobi Stars and Cameroon’s USM de Loum in the first round. A win here will see them book a ticket in the group stages.
A superb Chiukepo Msowoya volley 10 minutes after the restart gave Nyasa some hope as they led 1-0 and they should have wrapped up the game three minutes to time when Shafik Batambuze handled inside the box trying to control a cross.
However, Msowoya stepped up and his pale kick was well gathered by Oluoch with Batambuze turning back to serenade the keeper with endless hugs for saving his blushes.
Gor’s mental strength was better heading into the kicks .
Msowoya made amends scoring Nyasa’s first take with Bernard Ondiek responding for Gor. However, Nyasa found themselves chasing the game when Miracle Gabeya’s kick was saved and Gor responded with Humphrey Mieno, Boniface Omondi and skipper Harun Shakava converting.
John Lanjesi and Yamikani Fodya scored for Nyasa to take the ties to 4-3 with one round left for each.
Philirani Zonda stepped up for the hosts and despite sending Oluoch the wrong way, he rattled the bar meaning Gor needed not take their fifth kick as the game had sailed to safe distance.
-Pushed to the wire
It was always going to be tough for Gor having been pushed to the wire in the first leg and needed a last minute Ondiek goal to salvage a 1-0 result.
New tactician Hassan Oktay who is expected to be handed a contract upon return stood at the touchline for the first time and he went out with the same team that played in the first leg last Wednesday in Nairobi.
Chances were few and far in between and the closest Gor came was when Mieno sent George Odhiambo through, but the Nyasa keeper was quicker off his line to collect.
Msowoya also threatened for the hosts with a shot from range that went just wide.
At the stroke of halftime, Gor came inches close when Shakava put a toe to Batambuze’s freekick inside the six yard box, but the ball went up against the upright.
In the second half, pushed by a sizeable crowd at the Kamuzu Stadium, Nyasa were brighter and just 10 minutes in, they were 1-0 up.
Gor should have responded quarter of an hour later when an inviting cross from Samuel Onyango found an onrushing Erisa Ssekisambu, but the Ugandan’s header at point blank went over.
After the penalty miss, tensions flared ending up in assistant coach Zedekiah Otieno being sent to the stands.