31 January 2013

Tanzania: Azam Close Gap On League Leaders Yanga

AZAM closed the gap at the top of the Mainland Premier League, moving to within two points of leaders Young Africans, after comfortably thrashing struggling Toto African 3-1 at Chamazi Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

The victors controlled the first half and deservedly led 2-0 at the break, thanks to fine goals from newly-recruited Ugandan striker Brian Umony and Ivorian midfielder Kipre Bolou. Umony notched his second Azam's third goal shortly after the restart to seal a vital win for Stewart Hall's men, despite Selamani Kibuta notching one for Toto African deep into the half.

The result means that Azam have now reached a 30-point tally from 15 games and now breathe right down the neck of pacesetters Yanga, albeit after playing a game more. Ernie Brandts' Yanga stay on top with 32 points, while defending champions Simba, under the tutelage of French coach Patrick Liewig, sit on third with 26 points from 14 outings.

Toto remain third-bottom after managing 12 points after 15 games. Azam welcomed Toto African at their 7,000-capacity venue knowing a result was essential to keep pressure on Yanga and importantly sustain their pursuit for first ever League title since their promotion in 2008.

Hall fielded a strong line-up which included mini-transfer window imports; Umony, Joackins Atudo, Humphrey Mieno and signalled their intentions with a hightempo start in which they dominated both territory and possession. Their energy was rewarded moments later, when Umony beat Toto African goalkeeper Nelson Kimathi to give his side an early lead.

The goal seemingly stunned Toto into life and although they remained second best, they almost drew level after launching a quick counter attack. But they soon found themselves 2-0 down, after a moment of brilliance from Bolou, who swept a brilliantly struck leftfooted shot from 25 yards.

Toto were forced into making tactical change in the first half, sending on Mussa Said, with Donald Obina retired to the bench and the former was heavily involved as Toto went about searching for a goal that could get them back into the game.

The hosts continued to push and it took a fine stop from Kimathi to deny Mcha Hamis' powerful drive as the game approached the interval. Azam took a 2-0 lead at the breather. Any hope by Toto African to salvage at least a point was dealt a telling blow just seconds into the restart after Umony put Azam 3-0 up.

The Uganda Cranes hitman, who proved handful to Toto defence, finished off a good work by Kenyan midfielder Mieno. The game's tempo slowed down a bit as the encounter progressed into its final quarter as Azam showed to be contented and comfortable with the score-line, while Toto did little to suggest they would fight back.

With 14 minutes to go, substitute Selemani Kibuta pulled one back for Toto African out of nothing. And that was it as Judith Gamba blew the final whistle. The Ice-Cream makers sealed another 3-1 win following last Saturday's 3-1 triumph over Kagera Sugar.

The top flight league will continue on Saturday with three matches on card. Pacesetters Yanga will be up against Mtibwa Sugar at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam. The day will also see basement side, Polisi Morogoro squaring up against African Lyon at the Jamhuri Stadium in Morogoro and debutant Mgambo Shooting will square up against Ruvu Shooting.

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