Familiar foes from the group stages of the Cecafa Kagame Cup will renew their rivalry this afternoon when the semi-finals of the regional club competition kicks off.
First up will be Group ‘A’ rivals Gor Mahia up against Sudanese side Al Khartoum. After topping their group with an unbeaten record with the only blemish on their slate coming from their 1-1 draw with Khartoum, Gor made hard work of reaching the last four after prevailing 2-1 over unfancied Malakia.
Khartoum on the other hand shocked all and sundry with a 4-0 thrashing of Rwandese giants, APR. That result means that Khartoum, coached by Ghana’s 2014 World Cup tactician Kwesi Appiah, will start as favourites in the 2pm kick-off.
In the heart of their quest to reach a first Kagame Cup final for the Sudan side, will be former Gor favourite Teddy Akumu. The former Gor star has been a mainstay in Khartoum’s engine room and his performance against K’Ogallo’s midfield dynamos Khalid Aucho and Collins Okoth will go a long way to determine the outcome of this finely poised clash.
Gor coach Frank Nuttal knows too well that conceding first at this stage of the club championships is a sign to bid the competition good bye. Gor have conceded in each of their last five matches and so Nuttal and his technical bench will be racking up their brains to find a solution to their leaky defence and keep the likes of Ousman Baba and Sallehidine Bilal at bay.
One of Nuttal’s options would be to revert to the fluid 3-5-2 system he adopted in the first match, where an own goal from Liberian international Dirkir Glay was the only dark spot. Should Glay return to the starting line-up, Eric Ochieng may have to pave way.
Questions have also started to emerge about Gor’s forward department, which has been their bright spot.
Rwandese striker Medie Kagere has been a pale shadow of his hyperactive self, drifting in and out of games and frustrating good possibilities by being needlessly caught off side.
However, with his big game reputation still intact, Nuttal may still give him a vote of confidence to partner tournament joint leading scorer Michael Olunga. The lanky forward cut a frustrating figure with the lack of regular service in the quarter finals and having rattled the woodwork five times in as many games. He will be looking to be more clinical. Awaiting the winner of this encounter in the finals will be Azam or their Group ‘C’ nemesis Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
Azam carry the hopes of the Tanzanian football loving public having ousted compatriots Yanga on post-match penalties and anything but victory against a KCCA team they beat in the group stages, will not be countenanced by the soccer mad Dar-es-ealaam supporters.