- Published on Sunday, 08 January 2012 23:50
- Written by NELLY MTEMA in Zanzibar
- Hits: 8429
SIMBA SC’s title defence campaign in the Mapinduzi Cup enters a tricky stage when the side clashes with Azam FC in a crunch semi-final duel at the Amaan Stadium in Zanzibar on Monday.
The two sides will be meeting for the first time in the tournament, bringing up the prospects of an exciting battle considering both will be seeking progression to the final.
Azam FC qualified for the last four’s phase of the event from group B that also comprised Kikwajuni, Mafunzo and Yanga, in which Azam finished at the top of the group with seven points from three matches after winning two and managing a draw in the remaining.
The Dar es Salaam-based side started the tournament with a resounding 3-1 victory over Kikwajuni of Unguja before it was held to a 1-1 draw with another Unguja outfit, Mafunzo, in the second match.
Azam then rediscovered their solid performance when they met newfound rivals, Yanga, in the third match played at the same venue on Friday night, grabbing a convincing 3-0 win to ascertain their qualification for the semi-finals. Despite tying Azam FC on points, Mafunzo, who also won two matches and claimed a draw in the other, had to settle for the second position as the former had a better goal aggregate.
Simba, who were in group A, finished at the second position with six points from three matches, winning two and losing the other. The Msimbazi Street side crashed to an unexpected 2-1 defeat at the hands of Jamhuri of Pemba in the opening match but later regained their winning formula to edge Miembeni United 4-3 before grabbing a 2-0 win over KMKM on Saturday night through goals from midfielder Patrick Mafisango and Salum Machaku.
Azam has proved to be a stubborn opponent to Simba in recent meetings between the two sides and the latter will definitely need to deploy all experience at their disposal, should they wish to secure victory. The two teams last met in the first round match of the Mainland Premier League at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam in which they shared the spoils with a barren draw.
While Azam FC head coach, Stewart Hall, is not expected to make much changes in his side today, significant changes are expected in Simba as the team’s head coach, Milovan Cirkovic, continues to assess his side’s performance in a bid to improve ahead of both domestic and continental assignments. Hall is adamant that his side will continue to haunt the giants. He said Simba will not trouble his lads because they are well prepared to confront the Msimbazi Street side.
Simba also use the Mapinduzi Cup as preparations for the second round of the Mainland Premier League and the preliminary round of the CAF Confederation Cup and today’s encounter with Azam FC will offer the first biggest challenge to the Msimbazi Street side in the preparations. Meanwhile Simba SC Serbian coach, Milovan Cirkovic has been impressed by the performance shown by his team against KMKM at the ongoing Mapinduzi Cup when his side won 2-0 on Saturday evening.
Cirkovic said the performance was a bit impressive compared to when they faced Miembeni United at the same venue. “I am trying to gauge each players and I think we are making good progress ahead of both final round of Premier League and Confederation Cup next month,” he said. During their game, Simba SC registered their first goal in the 50th minute though a spot kick converted by Mafisango before Salum Machaku netted the second five minutes later from a set piece.