EMPHATIC Taifa Stars overcame visiting Gambia 2-1 in a thrilling 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Sunday to give their qualification hopes a huge boost.
The Taifa Stars welcomed The Scorpions, having lost their first World Cup qualifier 2-0 to favourites Ivory Coast. Gambia, meanwhile, drew 1-1 with Morocco.
The hosts, therefore, were keen to get their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track and they were able to do just that after they bounced back from a goal down to take all three points against The Scorpions.
Momodou Ceesay had given Gambia the lead in the first half, but goals from defenders Shomari Kapombe and Erasto Nyoni on resumption gave Kim Poulsen his first win in charge of the Stars.
The victory moved Stars second in Group D on 3 points, one behind Ivory Coast who on Saturday played out a 2-2 draw with now third-placed Morocco, while Gambia sit bottom with a single point on hand after two matches.
Stars got off to a stunning fashion and threatened on the second minute when winger, Mrisho Ngasa, sped down the left, dribbled past a couple of Gambia defenders and fed striker Mbwana Samatta outside the area but the latter's left footed attempt was cleared by the visiting defence.
But the hosts then were punished for poor defending on the 8th minute when Gambia notched the opener through striker Momodou Ceesay, who easily rose to head home a pinpoint cross floated in from the right by winger, Saihou Gassama. Stars were hardly daunted and pressed in search of an equalizer.
They went close on the 20th minute when midfielder, Mwinyi Kazimoto, unleashed a powerful drive from almost 20 metres out but the effort hit the right post much to amazement of the crowd. Stars again had a chance to trouble the visitors a minute later when overlapping right fullback, Erasto Nyoni, had his left footed attempt from outside the area fly just inches over the crossbar.
Despite opting for a more defensive game, Gambia, posed threat whenever pushing forward and their towering striker, Ceesay, was a constant menace to Stars defenders. The visitors led by the lone goal at the breather. The Stars started the second half on a sound note and went close on a couple of occasions.
After a series of attempts, Stars equalized on the 61st minute through defender Shomari Kapombe, who beat Gambia keeper, Christopher Allen, with a bicycle kick, following a Nyoni cross from the right. The hosts, backed by a wildly cheering crowd, had a lion's share of possession thereafter and pinned Gambia on their own half for a while.
Ngasa outfoxed a Gambia defender at the edge of the box on the 69th minute and hit a rasping shot but keeper Allen parried it to safety. The hosts got the second from a spot kick put away by Nyoni. They won the penalty after one of Gambia defenders handled the ball inside the area.
Gambia disputed the spot kick for a while claiming the defender did not deliberately blocked the ball by his hand. The Zimbabwean referee, Ruvize Ruvize, stood his ground. Despite frantic efforts by Gambia to cancel out the hosts' lead, the Stars hung on for the priceless win.