From a position of strength 11 days earlier, Gor Mahia blew their chance of reaching the last eight of the Caf Confederation Cup after they were beaten 2-1 by USM Alger away in Algeria yesterday.
Congolese forward Prince Ibara nodded home the opening goal midway through the first half with Amir Sayoud firing in the crucial second goal in the 80th minute. Jacques Tuyisenge gave Gor the consolation goal eight minutes to time.
USM topped the group with 11 points with Rwandan side, Rayon Sports, pipping Gor to second after their 1-0 win over Yanga pushed them to nine points one ahead of the Kenyan champions.
Dylan Kerr made the brave and necessary decision to hand Peter Odhiambo his first start in the competition after the Briton had seen enough of the errors of Boniface Oluoch, who was on the bench, and Shaban Odhonji, who was not in the squad.
Ibara was the only foreigner in the USMA squad led by goalkeeper Mohamed Zemamouchie.
The home-side started strongly and had an opportunity to make foray into the Gor Mahia box from a free kick handed to them after Francis Kahata had barged into Hamza Khoudri but Ibara was adjudged offside as his header went over.
Odhiambo then vindicated Kerr’s decision to hand him the starting berth in goal when he saved rightback Mohammed Meftah’s penalty, given after Haron Shakava handled the ball in the box.
It was a let off for Gor who would have been pushed further on the ropes had the spot-kick been converted. Meziane Bentahar was a constant threat down the left with his crosses and menacing runs complementing Ibara’s strength in the air.
The winger was winning free-kicks in good areas for the home-side but they did not take full advantage. A lofted ball in the box saw Odhiambo show his confidence as he came off his line to cut off the danger and won a freekick that bought Gor, who were under pressure, some breathing space.
Faouzi Yaya should have done better than drag his shot wide when picked out by Meziane. Gor had chances to attack in the counter but lacked the numbers upfront to cause USM any worry.
Just as Gor looked to have weathered the incessant storm, they went behind. A second straight corner was lofted in the box and Ibara headed the ball past a bemused Odhiambo and his defenders.
From then on, the floodgates threatened to open but the Gor keeper kept his team in the tie, expertly pushing away a dangerous goal-bound header from Yaya.
With nothing to lose, Gor came out in the second half determined to take control of their own destiny. For the first time, the Kenyan champions had a foothold of possession with Humphrey Mieno, Francis Kahata and Ernest Wendo exchanging passes in the midfield.
Those 10 minutes of dominance saw George Odhiambo get a sight of goal but his decision to shoot rather than pass to the better-placed Kahata was the wrong one.