TANZANIA's Under-17 side, Serengeti Boys, face a daunting task in its bid to reach the 2013 African finals after taking a narrow 1-0 win over Congo Brazzaville in the first leg of the final round of the continental qualifiers.
A solitary first-half strike by Mudathir Yahya earned Jakob Michelsen's a first leg advantage but never insurmountable lead they were looking for ahead of the decisive return leg in Brazzaville in a fortnight.
The game, staged at the 60,000-seater National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, was balanced for the better part of the first half as both sides made several forays into each other's box.
The hosts then grew in confidence as minutes ticked by and they ultimately took the lead after 15 minutes when a well taken free-kick by Yahya found the back of the net. Congo - Brazzaville then replied with a series of attacks but the team's striking force failed to bear Boys' promising shot stopper, Manyika Peter.
The home side, thus, led by the solitary goal at the breather. On resumption, Congo went close when striker, Atoni Mavoungou, saw his diving header go narrowly wide as he connected a free kick by Ondongo Boungema from the right.
Serengeti Boys replied with a swift attack in the same minute but failed to finish off just outside the area and Congo defenders cleared the danger. Congo had a goal disallowed when scorer Obasi Ngatsongo, was adjudged offside. Michelsen's youngsters pressed forward a few minutes later and midfielder Mohamed Haroub tested Congo keeper, Ombandza Mpea, with a fierce 35-metres shot that went inches wide.
The visitors attacked more midway through the half but zealous defending by Serengeti Boys kept the Congolese at bay. The hosts had an audacity to launch a couple of good counter attacks and won two corner kicks deep in the half but were let down by profligacy in front of the goal.
Frustration got the better of Congo head coach, Eddie Hudanski, who was sent off for apparently uttering obscene remarks to assistant referee. Serengeti wasted a glorious chance a minute before the final whistle when substitute, Dickson Ambunda, failed to connect a good cross by Selemani Bofu from the left and it ended 1-0 in favour of the Tanzanian side.
In reaching this level, both Tanzania and Congo - Brazzaville had walkovers respectively over Egypt and Zimbabwe, and were understandably eager to get the action going at the weekend. Serengeti Boys will need a draw of any kind in the return to book their place for continental showpiece.
Aggregate winners in this third round will qualify for the finals alongside hosts Morocco for next year's event where the final four will make it to the FIFA World Cup later that year in the United Arab Emirates.