23 December 2012

Tanzania/Zambia: Ngassa's Strike Stun 'Chipolopolo'

MRISHO Ngassa's stunning goal gave the national soccer team, Taifa Stars, a sweet victory over reigning African champions Zambia's 'Chipolopolo' in an international friendly match at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

Chipolopolo are gearing up to retain the African Cup of Nations crown in South Africa next month but the defeat to Stars left French coach Renard Renard, with huge questions over the ability of his team to win record back to back titles.

On the other hand, it was a festival season gift for Tanzanians, who saw their youthful team displaying an eye-catching football to give torrid evening to the champions. It was an end to end affair right from the kick-off as both sides sought early goals.

Zambia went on rampage right from the kick-off, in which skipper Christopher Katongo's shot after five minutes beat Taifa Stars goalkeeper, Juma Kaseja, but it came off the post.

Katongo, who has just won the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) African-Footballer-of-the-Year award, reacted swiftly to follow up James Chamanga's initial shot that was cleared by Kaseja. Taifa Stars also put pressure on Chipolopolo and central defender Aggrey Morris's shot in the 8th minute hit the bar before it was cleared by defenders.

Stars then slowly took command with speedy runs and quick passing to keep Zambia defence under pressure. They dominated the pack of the midfield with Frank Domayo, Salum Aboubakary, Mwinyi Kazimoto and Amri Kiemba doing a great job to repel the opponent's threat.

Stars continued to torment their opponents and wasted a glorious chance in 14th minute, after a nice interchanging of passes between Kazimoto and Kiemba but the latter failed to connect home.

Kim Poulsen side had an upper hand for the remainder of the half and went close in the 22nd minute through Kazimoto's brilliant skills. The creative midfielder raced past Zambian defenders but his shot was blocked by keeper Danny Mnyayo.

Ngassa made an attempt again in the 38th minute after he was set through by impressive midfielder Salum Aboubakary, but his attempt missed the target. Later on, Zambian defence of powerful four men Hichani Himonde, Chisamba Lungu, James Chamanga and Moses Phiri, thwarted a series of attacks by Stars front men.

After threatening on a couple of occasions, Stars notched the opener in the 45th minute through Ngassa, who was deployed as 'false nine' yesterday. The wing wizard banged in after outpacing defenders and unleashed a powerful shot outside 18 metres, which initially hit the top bar and sailed into the back of the net.

It was a brilliant run, brilliant movement and brilliant goal. The half time eventually saw the home side leading 1-0. After the restart, Zambia pushed upfront but could hardly make the most of the few chances they had. They nearly conceded the second when Khamis Mcha's set piece was palmed over the bar by keeper.

Ngassa continued to torment the African champions' defence and went close from snatching the brace and second for Taifa Stars but his feeble shot went inches wide. Stars who were at their best form yesterday, missed another glorious chance in the 71st minute, when substitute Simon Msuva powerful shot was spilled off by keeper, Mnyayo but no Stars striker was lurking around to finish it off.

Both sides made changes in the second half with Chipolopolo resting skipper Christopher Katongo and introduced Evance Kangwa, while Reading or Arsenal bound defender Stopilla Sunzu came in for James Chansa. Stars brought in Simon Msuva for Mcha, Nadir Haroub replaced injured Kelvin Yondani, while Ngassa was replaced by Amir Maftah in the dying minutes of the match.

Zambia rejuvenated in the closing stages of the match and threatened to pull level in various occasions. Stars survived a scare in the 74th minute, when Makuka Mulenga's blockbuster hit the post and Morris was quick to clear.

Chisamba Lungu set Felix Katongo clear six minutes before the final whistle, but his shot inside six metres was saved by Kaseja to a fruitless corner kick. Meanwhile, national team sponsors, Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL) through their Kilimanjaro Premium Lager brand staged a special concert that was used to officially introduce the national team to its fans.

Chipolopolo players were also introduced. The occasion was coloured by a blend of entertainments including performances by renowned local artistes. Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) and Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) lined up the match to gauge the team's readiness before launching the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title defence in South Africa next month as well as provide the Tanzanian outfit a strength-testing platform.

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