John Bocco`s hat-trick completely wrecked six-time winners Simba as Azam cruised into the Kagame Cup semifinal berth following a comprehensive 3-1 demolition in the quarterfinal match played at a packed National Stadium in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
Azam have therefore booked a date against AS Vita from the Democratic Republic of Congo in one of the semifinals to be played at the same venue tomorrow.
It was Simba’s doom day when Bocco opened the gate as early as 18th minute with his power-packed shot that sailed into the net leaving custodian Juma Kaseja reeling.
Bocco outpaced Simba defenders before unleashing a high-precision kick that pushed the ball on the far post.
Simba tried to come back but it was not an easy task against determined ice cream makers who had earlier vowed to shock the Mainland champions.
Azam were well organised in all departments as Erasto Nyoni cleared all the attacks at the left back while Said Morad was at his best on the centre back role.
Playing with intricate passes Azam displayed a well drilled attacking football throughout the opening half.
Simba were simply prone to concede a series of attacks that exposed the team’s weakness at the rear losing midfield possession and control.
Bocco was on target again with a powerful diving header inside the box to leave Kaseja sprawling on the turf just after the second half got underway.
Simba responded with vigour but profligacy prevailed upfront until defender Shomari Kapombe’s solo efforts paid off with the consolation goal eight minutes after resumption.
Simba’s attacking midfielder Haruna Moshi and striker Felix Sunzu tried all tricks but Azan defenders marshaled by centre back Aggrey Morris stood firm to keep everything under firm control.
Simba besieged Azam goal in anticipation for an equalizer when the plan back fired with their opponents capitalising on infrequent counter attacks.
Bocco who looked harmless in most of the time when the ball came into Simba goal area quickly responded with rare reflex to conclude his hat-trick with a blockbuster reminiscent of the opening goal after 73 minutes.
Bocco’s goal put Azam’s victory beyond reach of samba who had dominated the regional championships during the 90’s and in early new century years.
Simba’s Haruna Moshi and Zambian striker Felix Sunzu combined well as the later had his goal disallowed five minutes to time for an offside.
It was a sweet revenge for the ice cream makers who had lost on penalty shootout during the newly launched Friendship cup at the same venue barely three days ahead of the Kagame Cup kick off.
Azam are competing in the tournament for the first time since winning the Mainland premiership berth during the 2008/9 season.
The ice-cream makers are shrugging off the underdog tag in domestic soccer while making their presence felt at international stage.
In another quarterfinal that preceded Azam-Simba clash, AS Vita shocked Burundi champions Atletico Olympique with a last-gasp goal deep into the stoppage time when Niemba Nkanu became their hero.
It was the winners who opened the score line with the first half goal after 17 minutes before the Burundi champions responded with an equalizer midway into the second half.
Atletico ended their group phase matches with unbeaten run and they were considered as the tournament’s surprise package closer to title favourites.
Azam coach John Stewart Hall complained of a waived penalty when Bocco was fouled inside the box. Simba coach Milovan Cicrovich said Azam played well and bemoaned his club management for downplaying a month-long preparation opting for ten days instead.
Vita and Azam have joined holders Yanga and Rwanda’s APR as teams destined to win or share the $60,000 prize package courtesy of Rwanda President Paul Kagame. The final will be played on Saturday as the winner would take home half of the prize fund package.
Meanwhile, of the four semifinalists, only Azam remain as the team with unbeaten run since they kicked off the tournament on July 14. The three others have lost at least a match during the group stages.