30 January 2013

Tanzania: Azam Seek to Close Gap

STEWART Hall's Azam will once again seek to close the gap at the head of the Mainland Premier League, with the city tycoons facing a seemingly easy task against relegation threatened Toto African at Chamazi Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday afternoon.

Table toppers Young Africans pulled five points ahead after beating Prisons of Mbeya 3-1 at home on Sunday, ensuring that Hall's men, who currently occupy second position in the league table, welcome Toto knowing a result is essential to sustain their pursuit for first ever League title since their promotion in 2008.

The omens bode well with Azam, who are apparently in fine spirits, having routed Kagera Sugar 3-1 at the same venue last Saturday, and Toto reeling from the thumping handed out by away match to JKT Oljoro. A brace from Khamis Mcha and a goal for Abdi Kassim were enough in Azam's win over Kagera Sugar in match-day 14 as the last year's runners-up tightened their grip on second place with 27 points.

With Yanga not in action until Saturday, a win for Azam would see them close down the gap with the league leaders to only two points. A win for Azam will also help the city tycoons create a good buffer zone with third-placed Simba, which could as well prove crucial in the battle for the second place.

Hall has got a healthy looking squad at his disposal after a relatively active minitransfer window in which they recruited a host of players from inside and outside the country. They showed last time out that they had enough firepower to rival any in the top division, so the English trainer will definitely be relishing the opportunity to put more pressure on Yanga.

Key to Azam's quest for maximum points will be the attacking quartet of Mcha, Kipre Tchetche, John Bocco and newly signed Ugandan ace Brian Umony. By the look of things, Toto defence should struggle to contain Azam's attacking force. But if anything, Azam need to avoid any complacency against Toto African, bearing in mind that the latter will be fighting for their life.

After fashioning out a narrow escape during last season's campaign, the Mwanza-based outfit once again find themselves in relegation zone. The rock city-boys sit third bottom, with 12 points. Whilst last Saturday's 3-1 defeat at JKT Oljoro jeopardized their chances of staying up, another reverse today would only worsen the situation and that could turn out to be a motivating factor for Toto. Elsewhere, Kagera Sugar will be trying to bounce back from the Azam thrashing when they make a daunting trip to JKT Oljoro.

Kagera Sugar sit seventh in the standing following their 21 points haul from 14 games, and today's encounter would provide them with an opportunity to move up to fifth place if, after all, they manage to secure maximum points at Oljoro. But Oljoro will go into the Sheikh Amri Abeid Memorial Stadium in Arusha determined to maintain their good home form by posting another vital win to strengthen their league position.

Their win at the weekend over Toto lifted Oljoro onto eighth place on 17 points and while another victory would not improve their position, it will help them scale eight points above the relegation borderline. The league is set to continue on Saturday with three matches on card.

Pacesetters Yanga will be up against Mtibwa Sugar at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, while bottom side, Polisi Morogoro will entertain African Lyon at the Jamhuri Stadium in Morogoro and debutant Mgambo Shooting will square up against Ruvu Shooting. The second round of the Tanzania Vodacom Premier League resumed last weekend following a two-month break since November last year.

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