The Kenyan champions face a tall order to progress in the lucrative competition after losing 2-3 to the North Africans at Nyayo Stadium
Gor Mahia started the game brightly and got into the lead courtesy of a 12th minute Danny Sserunkuma goal but Ahmed Akaichi and Yanik Ngang scored to give Esperance the lead. Harun Shakava headed in late on to give Gor Mahia some lifeline but it was never enough as Haithen Jouwi scored in 89th minute to give the Tunisians a huge advantage.
As is their characteristic, Gor Mahia started the match with huge busts of pace and they attacked the Esperance goal with every ambition to go ahead. They were duly rewarded in the 12th minute when Kevin ‘Daddy’ Omondi wriggled inside the box and was fouled by Chas Dhawadi with the referee pointing straight to the spot.
Danny Sserunkuma stepped up and shot into the top left of Maez Bin Cherifer’s goal to give Gor the lead. This gifted the home sides with huge busts of confidence with the almost 20,000 crowd that had attended the match fully behind them.
But Gor’s main undoing was inexperience as they ended up losing grip of the game with Esperance slowly coming in and starting to command possession. Ahmed Akaichi shot low to earn Esperance the equalizer from inside the box after Musa Mohammed had failed to head away a cross from the dangerous Harison Aful.
Mohammed was a constant leaking point in Gor’s defense as Esperance chose to constantly prey on him. However, Gor were urged on by the crowd and they got into attack after surviving an onslaught of Esperance prawls. Kevin Omondi, who was making his first start in competitive football this season, was the brightest in the Gor attack line and he had an effort saved on 30 minutes from a long range shot.
Gor were almost caught on the back foot a minute later with the burly Yanick Ngang and skipper Khalil Chammam exchanging passes inside the box after exploiting Mohamed on the left but the latter’s shot went wide.
K’Ogalo had a decent chance to go one ahead but lack of communication barred them. Shabaan Kenga had done some wonderful spade work on the right before cutting back a cross but Timonah Wanyonyi rushed to the shot on his weaker left foot when Geoffrey ‘Baba’ Kizito was better placed to pull the trigger.
Two minutes to the breather, Teddy Akumu tried his effort from distance but his stinging shot was well saved. The second period experienced more or less a similar start by Gor as the first. Danny Sserunkuma had his shot saved for a corner while another of his efforts went wayward.
However, Gor would be undone after just 18 minutes, a huge blunder from keeper Jerim Onyango gifting Ngang the chance to make it two with a simple tap from Alifu’s cross. The keeper was out to punch away a corner, but a rebound shot from the edge of the box caused a deflection. The ball sprung to the right with Jerry heading for it, but Alifu beat him to the ball cutting back for Ngang to tap into an empty net.
Alifu continued to be a constant threat to Gor Mahia with his runs on the right, this time taking full advantage of Walusimbi’s forward surges. Ngang almost made it two from such a run but he headed over after Jerry had spilled the Ghanaaian’s cross.
With 12 minutes to go, Harun Shakava pulled a goal back to make it 2-2 and Gor had another lifeline. The goal spurred them life and Danny Sserunkuma had a shot go just wide after a counter in the 80th minute.
Their final blow would come in the 89th minute, Substitute Goeini tapping in after Allefu’s shot had struck the bar. Gor were left dumbfounded from the first shot and their reaction was poor to the rebound.