SIMBA'S slim hopes of retaining the Vodacom Premier League title for a second consecutive received another jolt yesterday when they stumbled to 1-0 defeat to Mtibwa Sugar to remain nine points behind pace-setters and archrivals Yanga.
Yanga had moved nine points ahead of their traditional adversaries with a 1-0 over second-placed Azam on Saturday, thus Simba welcomed Mtibwa at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam looking to close the gap on Azam in the battle for second place and try to keep the league leaders within touching distance.
But a solitary first-half strike by Mtibwa Sugar centre back Salvatory Ntebe condemned the title holders to a soul-searching defeat, and they are likely to fall twelve points behind title favourites Yanga, with the latter still to play their game in hand.
With eight games to go, it is unimaginable that Yanga would surrender a nine-point advantage. The result means, Simba remain five points behind Azam in third place while Mtibwa Sugar climbed to one place up to six after reaching 27 points.
Simba head coach Patrick Liewig recalled much-maligned central defender Juma Nyosso in his starting line-up alongside Malian Komanbil Keita, with Shomari Kapombe given the defensive midfield role, while Zambian Felix Sunzu led the attack for the hosts.
Mtibwa Sugar, who had defeated Simba 3-0 in the first round match, started with a strong line-up including Hussein Javu, Shaaban Kisiga, Jamal Mnyate, Rashid Gumbo and skipper Shaaban Nditi. The tepid start failed to provide any real goalscoring openings.
Shomari Kapombe's effort after two minutes missed the target as Simba went for an early goal. Just as has been the case recently, Simba looked largely below par. Defensive deficiencies were exposed once more when Mtibwa Sugar defender Salvatory Ntebe silenced the Reds supporters on the 17th minute.
It was clear that Simba needed a swift riposte to restore their fragile confidence but even Sunzu's presence could not to lift the holders. The towering striker, who has just returned from injury that kept him out of action for the past few weeks, looked rusty as he was slow and often lost possession.
Javu who was a thorn in Simba's defence went close to netting a second goal when he outsmarted Simba central pair of Nyoso and Keita before riffling a powerful shot that sailed narrowly wide. Sunzu failed to hit the target from a Haruna Chanongo cross on 28 minute and Mtibwa Sugar threatened twice with counter swift attacks before Mnyate drew a fine save from Kaseja.
Liewig made his first substitution four minutes before the break with Kiggi Makasi replacing Ramadhani Chombo but the score remained unchanged as the half time whistle blew. The hosts began the second half with much more vigour but despite Chanongo's lively runs, he was unable to direct a pair of attempts on target. Liewig played his second card by introducing Ngasa to the action, with Chanongo taken off.
The substitution had no galvanising effect as Simba struggled to break Sugar's resistance. There were few and far chances between the two sides for the rest of the second half, with Mtibwa clinging to their lead while Simba little desire to try and rescue at least a point.
It went from bad to worst for Simba when Nyoso was given the marching orders after 85 minutes for a foul play against Mtibwa's Vincent Barnabas. Teams: Simba; Juma Kaseja, Nassoro Masoud 'Chollo', Amir Maftah, Juma Nyosso, Komanbil Keita, Shomari Kapombe, Ramadhan Chombo, Mwinyi Kazimoto, Felix Sunzu, Haruna Moshi 'Boban', Haruna Chanongo.
Mtibwa Sugar; Hussein Sharrif , Said Mkopi, Issa Rashid, Salvatory Ntebe, Salum Sued, Shaaban Nditi, Jamal Mnyate, Rashid Gumbo, Hussein Javu, Shaaban Kisiga, Vincent Barnabas