DEFENDING champions Young Africans passed on the opportunity to go top of the Premier League table after they were held to a goalless draw by Mtibwa Sugar at the Jamhuri Stadium in Morogoro yesterday.
Chances were at premium in a hard-fought first half, but Yanga could and should have gone to the interval a goal up after winning a penalty. But Simon Msuva squandered the golden chance.
Yanga, knowing a win would take them top following Simba’s 2-2 draw with Mbeya City on Saturday, grew into the game in the second half and had the better of it but were unable to carve out any clear-cut chances. The hosts occasionally offered a threat on the break but Jamal Kibaya and Stamili Mbonde could not find a way past Yanga defence well-marshalled by Vincent Bossou.
The result means Yanga tallied 53 points from 24 games and remain two points behind leaders Simba in the tight title race with six games to go. Mtibwa Sugar, meanwhile, have reached 34 points from 24 outings.
Obrey Chirwa, whose red card against Ruvu Shooting was rescinded following an appeal, led Yanga’s attack alongside Simon Msuva and Malimi Busungu, who was however replaced by Juma Mahadhi after only 31 minutes.
The highly-anticipated game kicked off at a snail’s pace as either side carefully tried to exert their authority, with Yanga creating a few half chances early on. Red hot Chirwa had the first good opportunity when he found himself inside Mtibwa’s penalty area but the Zambian blasted a shot wide.
Yanga attacked again and Justine Zulu drew a fine save from keeper Said Mohamed after five minutes before Deo Munishi was called into action following a wicked corner kick taken by Issa Rashidi.
Busungu, who has spent most of the season outside first team for various reasons, made a fine run into the box in the 16th minute but could not hit the target. Chirwa saw his goal-bound effort blocked by Mtibwa defenders on the half hour mark.
Yanga won a penalty on the 33rd minute when Mtibwa defender played the ball with his hand in a desperate attempt to stop Chirwa on the edge of the box. Msuva who has played majestically this campaign and a reliable penalty taker for his side stepped up only to put his effort awkwardly over the bar.
Bossou came to Yanga’s rescue in the 37th minute following a decent attack by Mtibwa Sugar and the two sides headed for the breather tied on a goalless draw. There were far and few clear-cut chances in the second half, with both teams finding it hard to string at least three passes together on the bumpy Jamhuri Stadium pitch.
Kibaya wasted Sugar’s best chance of the game when he shot wide from 12 yards after being played in by Shaaban Nditi. Yanga head coach George Lwandamina again reshuffled his pack, sending on Geoffrey Mwashiuya and then Juma Makapu, replacing Emmanuel Martin and Kelvin Yondani respectively.
The defending champions eventually increased the tempo of their game. As the game entered the final ten minutes, Mohamed was the busier of the two goalkeepers, but the former Yanga goalie was always solid, with confidence in his back line and successfully kept Yanga attackers at bay.
Meanwhile, Azam FC beat Stand United 2-0 at Azam Complex on Saturday night.