Zanzibar came from a goal down to beat neighbours Tanzania Mainland 2-1 in a tense Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup group A match played at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos on Thursday.
Himid Mao fired Tanzania Mainland ahead in the 29th minute, but a goal a piece from substitute Kassim Suleiman and Ibrahim Hamad handed the Heroes a crucial win that sails them top of the group on six points.
“The first half was a bit difficult for us but we came back psychologically upright to fight for the three points in the second half. The boys played to instructions and ensured they converted the chances created,” an elated Zanzibar coach Hemed Suleiman, said.
His Tanzania Mainlad counterpart Ammy Ninje was angered with his boys’ lapse in concentration which cost them.
“We started well but the boys didn’t show the kind of desire and character like the opponents especially in the second half. Football is not about skills, but the spirit and efforts you put in on the pitch. They (Zanzibar) fought to win and that’s what made the difference,” an angry Ninje said.
Ninje made two changes from the team that played to a 0-0 draw against Libya on Sunday. Himid Mao and Daniel Lyanga replaced Ibrahim Hajib and Mbaraka Abed in midfield.
Suleiman made a single change in the team that beat Rwanda 3-1 on Monday, benching Suleiman Kassim for Hamad Makame.
The Heroes had a better start and would have taken the lead in the 16th minute, but Ibrahim Hamad failed to convert Issa Juma’s precise cross from the right flank.
This happened eight minutes after Kilimanjaro Stars had been forced to an early change after Kelvin Yondan was stretchered off the pitch with an injury with Boniface Maganga replacing him.
In the 21st minute, Hamad’s hard shot from close range was easily picked by Aishi Manula in the Kili Stars’ goal.
As Zanzibar’s efforts push for an opener faded, their opponents settled in the match to take the lead through Captain Himid Mao who planted a low shot to the bottom of the corner.
A rejuvenated Zanzibar side came back to chase for an equaliser in the second period. Ibrahim Hamad failed to beat Manula in a one-on-one situation in the 58th minute, but got the leveller in the 67th minute through substitute Kassim Suleiman.
Suleiman, who scored against Rwanda had replaced Yahya Mudathir in the 59th minute.
Zanzibar’s desire and unending surge continued in the second half resulting in the winner in the 79th minute through Ibrahim Hamad, who finished off a precise cross from Suleiman.
The survived Tanzania's pressure to hold onto the win that takes them at the top of the group.