Caf Champions League: Did new signings push Simba SC to historic Al Ahly win?

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Simba vs Al Ahly of Egypt.
Goal dissects the vital win Wekundu wa Msimbazi recorded over the Red Devils during a fiercely contested tie in Dar es Salaam

Simba SC launched the 'Total War in Dar' war cry for the Al Ahly visit in the Caf Champions League on Tuesday; it was a slogan that eventually pushed them to a deserved 1-0 win on February 23.

The win, the second consecutive in Group A, has left Simba well-placed to earn a quarter-final slot for the first time in their history.

The Wekundu wa Msimbazi are in control of their group, with four matches left to play, as they eye a berth in the knockouts.

Considering both Al-Merreikh and AS Vita Club must travel to Dar es Salaam, Simba are in a strong position...but how have they transformed their continental fortunes?

Simba SC vs Al Ahly at Mkapa Stadium.

Historical advantage

Simba already had a victory over Ahly, having defeated them as recently as February 2019, while various Egyptian teams including Al-Masry, SC Zamalek and Ismaily have all struggled in Dar es Salaam.

In 1974, Mehella visited and were shrugged off with a 1-0 defeat, before Al Ahly visited in 1985 and were defeated 2-1. In 1996, it was Mokawloon's turn and as fate would have it, they lost the encounter with a 3-1 margin, the biggest defeat an Egyptian side has received in Tanzania.

Ismaily were hosted in 2001 and 2003 and lost the first fixture 1-0 before fighting to earn a goalless draw in the second tie.

Simba also hosted Zamalek in 2003 and lost 1-0 before Houdoud were beaten 2-1 in 2010. Eight years later, Al Masry registered a 2-2 draw before Al Ahly's previous 1-0 loss almost one year later.

Even though there was much surprise when Ahly's 32-game unbeaten run- excluding the game against Bayern Munich - came to an end against Simba, there's certainly precedent for Egyptian teams to come unstuck in Tanzania.

Ahly's loss was the first for Pitso Mosimane against African opponents since he took the reins at Ahly.

Luis Miquissone of Simba Sc celebrates vs Al Ahly.

Proper signings

Simba's victory, and their current position, is also evidence of the success of their recent transfer strategy and the investment of chairman Mohammed Dewji.

He has forged a side that has the ambition and capability to challenge Africa's biggest teams. Simba's policy has always seen them raid opponents for players who have performed well against them. Wekundu wa Msimbazi were unable to find a way past UD Songo of Mozambique in the previous edition of the Champions League. Reason? Luis Jose Miquissone.

The Mozambique winger terrorised Simba and scored the goal that saw them pick up a 1-1 away draw that pushed them into the second round of qualification. 

Simba did not hesitate to sign him. The winger has been key and his exploits against Al Ahly are further evidence that his arrival has revitalised the 2020 treble winners.

Yanga SC's Bernard Morrison was controversially signed after his pinpoint free-kick condemned Simba to a 1-0 loss in the second Kariakoo derby in 2020. Since his arrival, and despite the stiff competition as well as the controversy that still surrounds his move, the Ghanaian has been a key player for the 21-time champions.

Before they qualified for the group stage this season, Simba had to navigate past FC Platinum of Zimbabwe, who had taken a 1-0 victory in the first leg in Harare.

The goal was scored by Perfect Chikwende, who was guessed it...signed by Simba!

Joash Onyango of Simba SC vs Al Ahly.

Joash Onyango's arrival, after lifting multiple titles with Kenyan champions Gor Mahia, was another signing that made the defence firmer.

The Harambee Star performed superbly against the Egyptian side, and his partnership with Ivorian Pascal Wawa will be key for their success in future African and domestic competition.

Taddeo Lwanga's arrival has also been a game-changer for Simba. Before Wekundu wa Msimbazi were over-reliant on Jonas Mkude, but the midfielder's suspension, over discipline issues, seemed to have given the Ugandan a perfect chance to slot into the first team seamlessly.

He took the chance and has proved to be a reliable general in midfield, especially when partnering the revitalised Muzamiru Yassin.

That said, Simba's transaction in the transfer market has been superb and has put them in the right direction as they seek dominance at the continental podium.

Mohammed Hussein of Simba SC vs Kisinda of Yanga SC.

Fierce domestic rivalry

Could the strength of the Tanzanian top flight also help?

Simba have never been accorded a smooth ride domestically as Yanga SC and Azam FC have always given them a run of their money in the FA Cup, Mapinduzi Cup and in league contests.

Although they have picked the league title on three consecutive occasions, the push they have received from the aforementioned clubs has consequently made them build a stronger side each year.

There has been no complacency!

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Even the ongoing season proves to be yet another close contest between the three sides, with the unbeaten Timu ya Wananchi leading the 18-team table, Simba second, and Azam, who have looked re-energised with the appointment of Zambian tactician George Lwandamina, lying third.

With the fierce rivalry at home, it would mean any Tanzania side that earns a continental slot will be strong because of the challenges they've had to fend off at home.

With home advantage, astute recruitment, and competition back home keeping them sharp, Simba will take some beating in continental competition this year.