MAINLAND giants Simba SC took a huge step towards reaching the second round of the CAF Confederation Cup after cruising to a 2-0 win over ES Setif of Algeria in their first round, first leg match played at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.
Second half strikes from Ugandan international Emmanuel Okwi and Zambian striker Felix Sunzu gave Milovan Cirkovic's Simba a commanding advantage ahead of the return leg in Algiers in a fortnight.
ES Setif began threatening in the very first minute when Youcef Ghezzali broke free down the right and whipped in cross but Simba centre back Juma Nyoso made a two-foot clearance for an abortive corner kick. Simba replied on the 4th minute when Okwi headed inches over the crossbar as he connected a Salum Machaku corner kick from the right.
Simba threatened again after 12 minutes when Sunzu forced a point blank save from Setif keeper, Mohamed Benhamou. Okwi could have put Simba ahead on the 17th minute after he was released by left back Amir Maftah but the Ugandan hitman could only attempt a poor lob that went wide.
Simba had, until then, dominated the midfield and attacked more but failed to break the tightly marking Setif defence. Milovan Cirkovic's men were lively down the flanks and floated in good crosses time and again but the visitors' defence easily dealt with them. Okwi missed another good chance on the 42nd minute when a header he attempted from a well measured cross by Machaku from the left went over the crossbar much to the dismay of the mammoth home crowd.
The two sides, thus, shared the spoils with a barren draw at the breather. Simba striking partnership of Sunzu and Haruna Moshi had so far failed to deliver the much expected outcome although the team's midfielders, Patrick Mafisango and Mwinyi Kazimoto had an upper hand in the middle of the pack. Moshi had a chance to force a good save from keeper Benhamou on the 55th minute with a fierce strike from a tight angle as Simba searched for an opener in earnest.
Setif opted for a more defensive approach on resumption and that gave Simba much room and possession and build moves only to be thwarted by the opponents' ever tight marking defence. Despite being on the defensive much of the time, Setif looked dangerous on counter attacks to force Simba defenders into more cautious approach.
Okwi eventually notched the opener on the 73rd minute with a seemingly less dangerous drive from almost 20 metres out to bring the fans to their feet. Sunzu added the second for Simba on the 81st minute when he completed a move started by Okwi from the right with a fierce shot from inside the area.
Simba remain the only Tanzanian team still in the running in the continental tournaments after Mainland champions Yanga suffered early elimination in the Africa Champions League along with Zanzibar's Mafunzo. Jamhuri of Zanzibar, the isles' envoys in the Confederation Cup, also kissed the tournament goodbye in the preliminary round.
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