9-man Stars survive Flames scare
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TAIFA Stars finished with nine players, as they came from a goal down to force a 1-1 draw with Malawi’s Flames in an international friendly match at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, yesterday.

Erasto Nyoni and Muzamiru Yassin were sent off in an ill tense game, especially in the second half of which, Stars slightly recovered from a poor display in the first half. Simon Msuva second half strike cancelled out Ngambi Robert’s first half opener.

Stars hosted ‘The Flames’ in a match played during FIFA week for international matches, which started on Thursday until Wednesday. Tanzania has in recent past dropped quite considerably in the FIFA rankings and all due to its failure, for quite a while, to win its FIFA organised matches.

And yesterday’s match was once again, a FIFA organised match, which required nothing from the players except winning the match in order to improve the country’s position in the rankings. Stars failed to live to fans’ expectations and yesterday’s result was received with mixed feelings with pundits predicting the slump for the country in the coming ranks.

It was a slow start for Taifa Stars as the visitors were on front foot, looking a side more likely to score. Malawi kept pressing and Stars defence looked fragile and porous. Coach Salum Mayanga deployed veteran central defender, Kelvin Yondani to partner, Abdi Banda, while Erasto Nyoni and Gadiel Michael were operating from the flanks to protect Aishi Manula between the sticks.

Himid Mao and Hamisi Abdallah started in the midfield, while Raphael Daudi was slightly above them and Stars were second best in the department. However, Abdallah only lasted for 14 minutes as he picked a knock and was replaced by combat midfielder, Muzamiru Yassin.

In the 15th minute Msuva’s corner kick almost landed on Mbwana Samatta’s head but goalkeeper, Swini Charles, was smart and sharp to collect the ball. After several near misses, skipper, Ngambi Robert gave the visitors a deserved lead in the 35th minute, reaching to a cross from the right to head home at the near post.

Stars goalkeeper, Aishi Manula was slightly caught off positioned and the scorer, who was allowed a free header, had an easy task to decide where to place the ball. Immediately, thereafter, Stars survived another scare, sloppy defending almost gave Chirwa Chikoti an opportunity to score only that he failed to keep his composure in front of the goal.

After the break, Stars came a stronger side, pushing for an equaliser. Mbaraka Yusuf replaced Raphael Daudi as coach Mayanga wanted pace and strength upfront and in the 58th minute, Msuva’s corner kick sailed into the back of the net.

Goalkeeper Charles attempted to parry it off but referee Israel Nkongo ruled that the ball had already crossed the line Thereafter, Ibrahim Ajib was introduced for Shiza Kichuya, as Stars were now on ascendancy, searching for a winner.

But it was Stars, who survived a real scare in the 62nd minute, when Mhango Gabadinho’s shot came off the post with keeper well beaten. Three minutes later, Samata’s header came off the post.

The KRC Genk striker brilliantly connected with an inch perfect header a cross in from Nyoni. Pressure was mounting in and Malawi Head Coach, Ronny van Geneugden was sent off for infringing the touchline rules.

Msuva was replaced by Abdul Hilal but few minutes later Nyoni was red-carded for un-sportsmanship behaviour. With two minutes to go, Mbraraka Yusuf missed a glittering opportunity.

A clever cross inside the box from Samatta found Yusuf in space but he headed wide. Muzamiru Yassin was also given marching orders for a second bookable offence. And it went from bad to worse as Samatta was stretched off with an injury in the 96th minute.

Coach Mayanga used the match against ‘The Flames’ to gauge the ability of his players as he is determined to form a formidable squad that will prosper in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.

Tanzania is pooled in group L alongside Uganda, Cape Verde and Lesotho. Winners from each group of the qualifiers will book a ticket for the AFCON finals to be hosted in Cameroon. The central African nation is also the tournament’s defending champions.

In the kick of the 2019 AFCON qualifiers campaign, Stars failed to utilise the home ground advantage after being held to a 1-1 draw by Lesotho at the Azam Complex in Dar es Salaam on June 10th, this year.

The next game will be against Uganda Cranes in Kampala, Uganda in March, next year.

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