A win of more than three clear goals was bound to propel Yanga to the top spot and Kostadin Papic’s side produced a mesmerizing performance in the second half to walk away with a 3-1 win that put them on the driver’s seat thanks to goal for advantage. The victory moved Yanga level on 34 with archrivals and title challengers Simba.
The result also saw the two Dar es Salaam-based giants tie on goal differences but Yanga leapfrogged Simba on top spot as they have scored more goals compared to their rivals. Mtibwa Sugar, meanwhile, remained in the fifth position with 22 points from 16 matches.
This was their third consecutive defeat, having previously suffered back to back defeats at the hands of Oljoro JKT and Coastal Union of Tanga in matches played at Mtibwa’s backyard, Manungu Stadium in Morogoro. The game kicked off at the cracking pace and there were several close chances at either goal throughout the first half but the chances went begging as the two teams settled for a barren draw at the interval.
In one of the chances, a seemingly less dangerous move by Yanga on the 17th minute ended with striker Davies Mwape avoiding his marker down the left flank and attempting a lob that clipped the crossbar with Mtibwa Sugar goalkeeper Deogratius Munishi already beaten. Mtibwa replied a minute later but the team’s good move on the left flank was not fully utilized by its strikers.
Yanga won an indirect free-kick inside Mtibwa penalty area on the 27th minute but midfielder Omega Seme blasted his shot over the bar. Mtibwa then got free-kick just outside Yanga penalty area but striker Said Rashid’s low shot was comfortably saved by keeper Shaaban Kado.
Rashid had another chance to complete a nice move by teammates shortly thereafter but he agonizingly shot wide. Mtibwa were reduced to 10 men on the 41st minute after Said Mkopi was shown red card for stamping on Yanga left back Stephano Mwasika. Yanga had another great chance shortly before the interval but the team’s Ghanaian striker Kenneth Asamoah could only direct the ball over the crossbar with his outstretched right leg as he was connecting a cross whipped in by Hamis Kiiza from the left side.
The two sides thus, shared the spoils with a barren draw at the breather. Mtibwa started the second half strongly and went close to opening the scoring after 47 minutes when Rashid set up his teammate inside Yanga penalty area but the later shot over. Despite playing with a man down, Mtibwa looked dangerous whenever pressing forward and Rashid headed just wide.
That forced Yanga defence led by Athumani Idd to be more alert. Munishi was forced to make a diving save on the 62nd minute to parry away a cross by Kigi Makasi from the right. A defensive blunder by Yanga came close to gifting Mtibwa goal six minutes later but Kado reacted swiftly to clear the ball for an abortive corner.
Mtibwa left back Issa Rashid scored on the 72nd minute after he was released inside the box but the goal was disallowed for offside. Asamoah then notched the opener for Yanga seven minutes later as he broke the offside trap by Mtibwa, dribbled past Munishi and fired into the net.
The hosts got the second on the 83rd minute through an own goal by one of Mtibwa defenders who vainly attempted to clear the ball following a goal-mouth melee resulted from a Kiiza cross from the left. Yanga put the results beyond doubt with a third goal in the 90th minute through Kigi Makasi whose attempted cross from the right went over Munishi and into the net.
Mtibwa Sugar scored the consolation goal in the final minute of stoppage time through Rashid. Yanga’s head coach, Kostadin Papic, used the match to assess the level of performance his charges have reached ahead of the first leg of the African Champions League’s preliminary round match against Egyptian giants, Zamalek, at the National Stadium on February 18.
With the big spending Azam FC still well in the title race, it was, indeed, nothing but victory over Mtibwa Sugar that could have seen Yanga maintain its presence in what has so far become an exciting battle for supremacy.