Gor Mahia coach Hassan Oktay is jubilant that the substitutions made yesterday against Ulinzi Stars yielded fruit as the defending champions left it late to reap a 2-1 win at the Afraha Stadium.
The match seemed destined for a one-all draw but a second-half substitute Samuel Onyango returned to disarm his former employers as his 86th-minute goal made all the difference.
Gor had taken the lead barely a minute into the game when Ugandan import Erisa Ssekisambu headed Francis Mustafa’s pinpoint cross past James Saruni.
However, the Soldiers levelled the scores in the 76th-minute through Enosh Ochieng. Onyango, who replaced Boniface Omondi buried the winner with four minutes left, leaving Oktay to largely attribute the win to the fresh legs introduced in dying minutes of the first half and the final stanza.
K’Ogalo were forced to make an unwanted substitution in the first half when Shafik Batambuze injured himself after running into an advertising board with his place taken by former Western Stima man Godfrey Ochieng, who splendidly guarded the flank.
Dennis Oliech rested a wasteful Nicholas Kipkirui in the second half, taking over the captain’s armband and had attempts on target as well as restricted Ulinzi defenders from overlapping.
Oktay lauded their impacts and prompted his side to seek to widen the gap between them and second-placed Sofapaka to 12 points when they take KCB on Thursday at the Moi Stadium, Kisumu.
Oktay said: “I think the substitutes we made today brought the difference and the three points. It was a tough match but the changes worked for us.
Kipkirui had three clear cut chances while Mustafa had two but the winning goal came from the bench. We have to focus on our next match as we host KCB in Kisumu.”
As Oktay swung into a celebration mood, his Ulinzi counterpart Benjamin Nyangweso underscored the importance of bouncing back to their winning ways when they take Bandari in their next match. The league winning coach blamed tough luck for the defeat.