The first of at least two ‘Mashemeji’ derbies this season is due for kick off this Sunday as AFC Leopards play host to their biggest rivals – in titles, history, fan base, ambition, name it – Gor Mahia.
The duo, arguably the best the country has to offer, and without doubt the most successful clubs in Kenyan football history renew their rivalry which first began on May 5 1968, a match that Gor Mahia won 2-1.
Gor Mahia go into the clash in a far superior shape. The two-time defending champions have won all their opening four matches of the season that sees them sitting pretty comfortably on top of the Kenya Premier League log on 12 points, 4 points and 5 places ahead of Leopards and with a game in hand.
Gor are also the leagues’ top scorers having planted the ball in the back of the net in all their matches while averaging 3 goals per game. However, they face an AFC Leopards side who have the second meanest defence in the league having conceded only three goals in their opening 5 matches, keeping three clean sheets. Whether Ingwe, managed by Zdravko Logarusic, a man who delivered the title to Gor Mahia in 2013, will prevent the free-scoring champions from breaching their backline is open to debate.
The form book is also hugely in favor of Frank Nuttall’s men. They have lost only once in their last 20 KPL matches and that was way back in October last year where they suffered a 3-2 loss to Sofapaka. In fact, Kogalo have lost only twice in their last 27 KPL matches, the Sofapaka defeat and coincidentally a 3-1 loss to Leopards in June 8th last year.
Leopards’ last win when hosting Gor Mahia was in October 2011. Charles Okwemba, playing his 9th Mashemeji derby, scored the opener in the first half before two goals after the interval from Mike Barasa and Laurent Tumba secured Ingwe a 3-0 win, their biggest winning margin over the bitter rivals since 1981.
Since then AFC have played host to Kogalo on three occasions in the KPL, winning zero, losing twice and drawing once. Gor Mahia lead the 13-time champions 5-4 in head to head count, taking into account only their previous 12 matches. However, Leopards have scored 16 to Gor’s 15 goals in those matches.
As the statistics suggest, the Gor Mahia-AFC Leopards clash is a game of thin margins. Thin margins decide derbies and this one won’t be any different.
A win for Leopards will not see them topple their rivals off the top of the table but it will get them closer, boost their momentum but more importantly deliver the bragging rights to the fans in blue.
The Leopards’ den is not quite stable as yet. There are cubs that still need to suckle some milk if Logarusic’s comments about some of the club’s players being ‘passengers’ are anything to go by.
For Gor, they have the momentum, they are scoring goals, one two, three, even four. Their new signings are working alongside the club oldies like a well-oiled clockwork. A defeat will almost be catastrophic, a draw will be an underachievement, a case of two points lost rather than one gained.
Three points, derby bragging rights, is K’Ogalo’s to lose.
And That’s thesteifmastertake!!