MAINLAND Premier League champions Simba are teetering on the brink of elimination from the CAF Champions League after they conceded a 1-0 defeat at home to Clube Recreativo Desportivo do Libolo of Angola in a first leg tie of the preliminary round on Sunday.
The enthralling Champions League first leg match was played at the National Stadium in front of enthusiastic Simba supporters, who, however, vented their anger towards head coach Patrick Liewig after another mediocre performance from their team.
Some, rilled by some questionable substitutions, could not wait for the final whistle and left their seat before the referee had blown his whistle.
Without key striker Felix Sunzu, who is sidelined with injury, Liewig was forced into fielding Haruna Moshi, Haruna Chanongo and Mrisho Ngassa in attack but the trio carried little threat going forward. They were missing Ugandan striker Emmanuel Okwi who has joined Tunisian Side Etoile du Sahel.
He spearheaded Simba attacks to great effect in this tournament last season, bagging in a couple of crucial goals that pepped up his team and carried them past tough opponents as Libolo proved here. Serbian coach Milovan Cirkovic, who guided the team to a blink of the lucrative group stage last year, was on the stands on Sunday.
Now, a spectator, he could not help but watch his former team tremble in front of the visiting Libolo army in the opening half. Even the Serb master would struggle with this group of players which has been robbed of some influential individuals such as Okwi, Sunzu, Kelvin Yondan and the late Patrick Mafisango.
Recreativo Desportivo do Libolo got off strongly and had their first really opening barely after two minutes when Joao Martins made a good run forward before unleashing a powerful shot that was, however, saved by Juma Kaseja. The visitors were unlucky not be ahead eight minutes in when Dario cracked a powerful effort off the crossbar.
Desportivo do Libolo were comfortably dominating the opening exchanges with Simba struggling to cement their authority on the game but the hosts gradually started to come on the picture, largely exploiting the pace and trickery of the team's attacking midfielder, Mrisho Ngassa.
Pedro Ribeiro was cautioned after obstructing Ngassa on 20 minutes. Joao Martins stunned the home crowd when he planted in a powerful header off a Carlos Almeida's cross on the 24th minute. The goal further inspired Libolo and kept pressurizing their opponents but the Simba defence stood firm not to fall further behind.
Kaseja made a fine save to deny Martins who fired a stunning effort after being laid on Maieco Antonio moments before the breather. Desportivo do Libolo were certainly the better side throughout the first half as Simba failed to seriously test goalkeeper Landu Mavanga.
The second half offered some glimpse of hopes for the Msimbazi Street faithful with an improved show from the home team. They fashioned a host of clear chances but could not find a goal that probably could have lifted their confidence. With Simba truly on the ascendancy, they were twice reminded of the threat the Angolans posed.
Libolo went close to extending their advantage after a brilliant counterattack, which caught Simba defence off guard but goalkeeper Juma Kaseja was up to the task.
Haruna Moshi missed a sitter to level the matters shortly after the hour mark before Maieco Antonio saw his shot flying narrowly wide. Both carved out a couple of chances thereafter but none could change the scoreline. Simba now should win by two clear goals in the return leg to be playedd in two weeks time if they must go through.
Simba: Juma Kaseja, Shomari Kapombe, Nassor Chollo, Kommabil Keita, Juma Nyosso, Mussa Mude, Haruna Chanongo, Mwinyi Kazimoto, Amri Kiemba, Haruna Moshi, Mrisho Ngassa
Libolo FC: Landu Mavanga, Carlos Almeida, Antonio Cassule, Pedro Ribeiro, Gamaliel Musumari, Manuel Lopes, Sidnei Mariano, Dorivaldo Dias, Joao Martins, Dario Cardoso, Maieco Antonio (C).