The 2019 SportPesa Cup kicked off on Tuesday in Dar-es-Salaam and it’s the biggest version of the tournament yet. Eight teams battling for supremacy at the National Main Stadium in Tanzania have made the city light up with life.
Both Tanzania Football Federation and Football Kenya Federation burned the mid night oil to ensure the third edition of the regional knockout showpiece happens without a hitch on January 22.
The Kenyan teams include Gor Mahia FC, AFC Leopards SC, Kariobangi Sharks FC, Bandari FC. The teams from Tanzania include Simba SC, Yanga SC, Singida United FC and Mbao FC.
At stake for the winners is the cherished opportunity of hosting English Premier League side Everton FC on their second tour of East Africa following their successful trip in 2017 when they played Gor in Dar.
A hefty cheque of USD30,000 also comes with lifting the trophy in further motivation for the participating teams to gun for glory.
Here is a recap of how the two previous editions held in Dar and the Kenyan lakeside of Nakuru panned out ahead of the third showdown of the tournament christened ‘Kenya vs Tanzania battle’.
2017- Peerless Gor make history with first win
It took only three weeks for the first edition of the competition- then known as SportPesa Super Cup- to evolve from an idea into reality.
A stellar cast featuring Gor, Leopards, Simba, Yanga and Singida who proudly carry the SportPesa logo across their shirts got direct tickets with 2016 SPL champions, Tusker FC and second division side Nakuru All Stars FC rounding off the Kenyan corner.
Jang’ombe Boys FC, the then Zanzibar league champions fought from the Tanzania side at the tournament held at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar from June 5 to 11.
Singida and Leopards got the tournament underway in the first quarterfinal where Tafadzwa Kutinyu (10′) and Vincent Oburu (63’) traded goals in a 1-1 draw in regulation time, taking the first SP Cup game in history into penalties where the Kenyans edged a nerve-shredding marathon shootout 5-4 to enter the semis.
Tanzania level matters at 1-1 in the second match of the day (June 5) when Yanga SC prevailed over Tusker 4-2 on post match spot kicks after the two giants battled to a 0-0 draw in the 90.
The biggest upset in the tournament’s short history came on Day 2 (June 6) when All Stars stunned Simba 4-5 on penalties after the second division side fought to force a 0-0 with the Dar titans.
Gor raced off the blocks in the last quarterfinal later in the day and made short work of Jang’ombe, dismissing them 2-0 with a Meddie Kagere double in the 64th and 86th minute to make a statement of intent.
A tasty first semi final between Leopards and Yanga failed to produce goals in regulation, with the encounter going into penalties with the Kenyans once again squeezing through 4-2 to book the first ticket to the final on June 8.
After shocking Simba, the quality of Gor proved to be a bridge too far for All Stars who surrendered to a 2-0 defeat with Kagere opening the scoring on the stroke of half time before winger George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo ended their resistance with a second in the 82nd to set a dream Mashemeji Derby final.
What was billed as a decider that was too close to call on June 11 ended up being a lopsided victory for Gor who stormed to a devastating 3-0 victory in a second-half blitz that saw Timothy Otieno (60′), Oliver Maloba (78’) and John Ndirangu in time added on add the gloss to an emphatic display.
Individual honours went to Kagere (Golden Boot) and Fredrick Onyango (Best Keeper) as Gor lifted the crown and got to play Everton at the National Stadium on July 13, going down 1-2 in a brave performance.
2018- Gor repeat success leaves rivals reeling
Gor were competing for honours on five fronts in a chocking fixture list that gave their SP Cup rivals hope of unseating the champions when the second edition came around in Nakuru from June 3 to 10.
The holders and Leopards were joined by first timers Kariobangi Sharks FC and Kakamega Homeboyz FC who finished third and fourth in the 2017 SPL to vie in the Kenyan corner.
Simba, Yanga and Singida got another bite of the SP Cup cherry with Jeshi La Kujenga Uchumi ZCZ FC who toppled Jang’ombe as the Zanzibar champions completing the tournament entry list.
Heavy showers did not dampen the mood of the tournament in Nakuru, the town that was hosting its biggest football competition ever when Homeboyz and Yanga took to the field for the first semi on June 3.
Yet another upset was served when a quick fire first half brace from seasoned striker and former Kenya international, Allan Wanga in the 28th and 31st minutes set Homeboyz up for a 3-1 victory.
Simon Matheo (38’) had given Yanga brief hope of mounting a comeback at 1-2 but substitute forward Wycliffe Opondo killed the contest with a third for the Kenyans in the 85th.
Up next came Gor and any idea of another shock when they entertained Jeshi La Kujenga Uchumi was quickly banished when the holders put together another 3-0 hammering.
Odhiambo (30’) and Uganda international Godfrey Walusimbi (36’) gave Gor a comfortable 2-0 cushion at the break before that man Kagere (81’) finished the Zanzibar side off with a late third.
The third and fourth semis on June 4 first witnessed Yanga survive a huge scare before caging Sharks 3-2 in a tense penalty shootout after they shared a 0-0 stalemate.
Leopards and Singida closed the last eight programme in a repeat of their 2017 quarter and once again, the two could not produce a winner in regulation but unlike in Dar, the Tanzanians enjoyed a 4-2 victory on penalties.
Homeboyz faced the might of Simba in the first semi and almost made a name for themselves when they battled to a 0-0 draw in normal time before the Dar giants eked out a nervy 5-4 victory in the ensuing shootout.
Another Kagere double in the 30th and 90th took care of Singida in a 2-0 success as Gor advanced to their second successive final to set up another mouth-watering clash with Simba.
The holders yet again humbled another regional giant when Kagere took only six minutes to shake the Simba net with fellow Rwanda international Jacques Tuyisenge ensuring the trophy remained with the Kenyans when he extended the lead in the 55th in yet another 2-0 triumph.
Kegere went home with Golden Boot for a second successive edition, Philemon Otieno was named the man of the match in the final as Shaban Odhoji took home the Golden Glove.
Everton hosted Gor at Goodison Park on November 6 and unlike in Dar, the English side swatted the Kenyan champions 4-0.
In the aftermath of the 2018 SP Cup, Simba snapped Kagere from Gor.