17 March 2019

Tanzania: Simba Achieve Beyond CAF Target

SIMBA re-wrote history, making it into the quarterfinals of the CAF Champions League after snatching a hard fought 2-1 victory over Congolese giants AS Vita at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam yesterday Zambian virtuoso midfielder, Clatous Chama netted the last gasp winner, after Mohammed Hussein cancelled out Kazadi Kasengu's opener.

Following the results, Simba finished second in what proved to be a topsy-turvy group on nine points behind leaders Egyptian Al Ahly, who registered a 3-0 win over JS Saoura of Algeria in Alexandria yesterday to post 10 points. JS Saoura ended their campaign with eight points to settle third while AS Vita finished last with seven points.

It was beyond achievement for Simba, who had initially targeted to reach the group stage of the continental top tier club championship.

Simba reached beyond the quarterfinal of the then All Africa Club Cup Championship, presently known as the Champions League, 45 years ago in 1974, when they were stopped in the semifinals by Egypt's Mehalla el Kubra in Alexandria.

It took AS Vita only 12 minutes to strike the lead through Kazadi Kasengu, following a defensive mix up. Pascal Wawa failed to clear the danger inside the box.

From then, Simba lost their cool, allowing Vita to control the tempo especially in the midfield but the visitors failed to seize the opportunity to stretch their lead.

As time went by, Simba slightly came back into the picture and pushing from the flanks where Zana Coulibaly and Mohammed Hussein pushed forward frequently.

No wonder, it was game on in the 35th minute, when Hussein walked the ball into the back of the net after receiving a nice pass from Muzamiri Yassin.

After the break, Simba came back more strongly searching for a historic winner and in the 54th minute, Meddie Kagere uncharacteristically missed from a sitter.

It was a nice spell of display by Simba and Coulibaly released John Bocco on the right side and the Captain crossed in for Kagere to finish off but the striker miscued his shot, wasting a glittering opportunity.

In the 57th minute, Haruna Niyonzima replaced Okwi and the Rwandese creative midfielder, proved his worth of gold for the Msimbazi Reds as he won almost everything in the midfield, creating hosts of scoring opportunities that Simba wasted, with Kagere and Bocco the main culprits.

Immediately, Niyonzima had an impact, linking up well with Kagere, who crossed in for Bocco but AS Vita keeper was sharp to block the lanky striker for a fruitless corner kick. Simba also called in Hassan Dilunga for Muzamiru and Rashid Juma came in for James Kotei as Simba continued to waste chance after chance as time ticked bye.

Patrick Aussems' charges had to wait until a minute before the final whistle to win the game as Chama's rasping shot precisely beat the keeper Nelson Lukong.

The goal followed a spell of neat display by Niyonzima, who released Bocco on the right side and the striker wasted time to tee up across that Niyonzima nutmeg his marker with a neat dummy to leave space open for Chama to shoot.

This victory proved Simba's rhetoric that every team should win at its home ground as the Msimbazi Reds won all their three home matches in group D.

They won 3-0 against JS Saoura in their opener at the National Stadium before stunning the Egyptian giants Al Ahly and the tournament's eight times winner with 1-0 win in Dar es Salaam.

Simba had a poor record in away venues at the group stage after losing 5-0 to AS Vita in the first leg match staged in Kinshasa, before losing by the same margin to Al Ahly in Cairo and recently lost 2-0 to Saoura in Algeria.

It was yet another wonderful day in the country's commercial city of Dar es Salaam as thousands of football fans flocked the 60,000 capacity National Stadium yesterday to watch the tense match pitting Simba and AS Vita.

As early as 10:00am, the scene outside the venue was extraordinary characterized by long queues of people similar to those seen during the general election period but yesterday, such people were lined up to get tickets and make their way into the stadium.

The entire place was red and white as commuter buses, Bajajis and Bodabodas ferried people of all ages, race and religion to witness the group stage tie of the campaign.

Thunderous sounds of trumpets which were coated in Simba's traditional white and red colours could be heard from all corners of the routes leading to the stadium accompanied by drums and songs being sung in praise of the Msimbazi street giants.

From the look of things, the attendance capacity at the country's current biggest stadium was on the verge to be broken and perhaps set a new record.

One could not help but wonder how the situation would look like let's say an hour before the kickoff time.

Arriving at 10:00am, it meant that the passionate Simba fans had to wait for approximately eight good hours before the start of the game, which kicked off at 7:00pm. Meaning most of them had breakfast and lunch at the venue.

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