SIMBA’s Mainland Premier League title race campaign was checked yesterday by resolute host Toto African, who forced a barren draw at the CCM Kirumba Stadium in Mwanza.
The Msimbazi Reds missed an opportunity to run away from their closest challengers and defending champions young Africans, who were on the sidelines.
They still sit top of the top of league table with 62 points from 27 matches, six points above their rivals and second placed Young Africans, who however, have two matches in hand. With three matches remaining for Simba and five for Yanga, the title race will go down to the wire.
If Yanga win the two matches in hand, they will go top of the table on goal difference advantage. Toto African on the other hand, moved above another relegation haunted Majimaji of Songea, both on 26 points but the former have better goal difference.
Majimaji, who lost 4-1 to Ruvu Shooting at Mabatini ground in Coast Region yesterday need miracle to survive relegation, with only three matches to go. Simba, who on Thursday won their peak, were looking to end their Lake Zone tour with maximum nine points.
They had grabbed six of them through an amazing 3-2 victory over Mbao FC at the same venue on Monday and the appeal against Kagera Sugar that awarded them three points and three goals.
Initially, Simba lost 2-1 to Kagera Sugar at the Kaitaba Stadium in Bukoba two weeks ago, but the Reds lodged an appeal to the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), protesting against their opponents to field defender Mohamed Fakhi, who had three yellow cards.
As predicted the match against Toto African was not easy for Simba as the home team also fought fiercely for maximum points. Simba Coach Cameroonian Joseph Omog deployed a double striking pair of Burundian Laudit Mavugo and Ivorian Frederic Blagnon but the duo failed to sparkle.
Simba started brightly and just two minutes into the game, Congolese right defender Janvier Basala Bokungu’s deep cross in the box found Shiza Kichuya in space but the winger fired wide. Five minutes later, Mohammed Ibrahim forced his way into Toto box but Blagnon fumbled with a chance to score.
Then Toto African came to picture in the 9th minute, when Waziri Junior left his marker flat footed, but he could not hit the target. At that moment Toto were still piling pressure for an early opening goal and Junior could easily tacked in a cross from left with Ghanaian goalkeeper Daniel Agyei out of his position but he missed the ball in the13th minute.
Three minutes later Junior’s cross was well met by Juvenary Pastory, who rose above defenders but his header sailed wide. In the 17th minute Mavugo displayed a nice footwork to beat defenders to the ball but he failed to hit the target.
Simba survived a real scare in the 26th minute, when Jaffar Mohamed released a powerful shot but Agyei was well placed to collect the ball. It was the first shot on target for Toto African. It turned to an end to end affair and in the 35th minute, Blagnon fluffed with a chance to score after Toto defender dropped the ball in the area but the Ivorian fired agonizingly wide. It was a clear chance for Simba.
Another chance came calling for Blagnon three minutes later, face to face with keeper Musa Mohamed, the striker surprised many with a miscued shot as Simba were searching and knocking for an opener. Toto were also growing in confidence. Jaffar Mohamed and Junior gave Simba a torrid evening.
After the break, Toto African came a stronger side as Simba were slightly on a back foot. However, a chance to blast in front for Simba came in the 46th minute but again, Blognon failed to make the most from the chance.
In the 53rd minute Simba survived a scare when Mohammed Hussein played a shot back pass to the keeper but Junior, latched onto his pass and his attempt to round off the keeper failed. The Ghanaian was quick and anticipated well to clear the danger.
Simba made changes, bringing in Mwinyi Kazimoto for Mohamed Ibrahim, while Ibrahim Ajib replaced Mavugo and Juma Luizio came in for Kichuya. The changes nearly paid off when Ajib’s set piece beat everyone except to cross bar.
As the time went by Toto African were defending in numbers, fighting at least for a point, which paid off in the end. In other matches played yesterday, Ruvu Shooting beat Majimaji 4-1, JKT Ruvu and Azam fought to a 2-2 draw, while Stand United and Mtibwa Sugar also fought to a barren draw.