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By MOHAMED ABDULRAHMAN

Bandari FC may have narrowly lost to compatriots Kariobangi Sharks in Sunday’s final of the SportPesa Cup in Dar es Salaam, but we produced one of the tournament’s biggest tactical masterpiece that had Tanzanians talking for days after the 2-1 win over giants Simba SC in the semi-finals.

In order to comprehend how the game was played, Bandari played a 4-2-3-1 system that had Simba’s 4-4-2 diamond in mind.

Coach Bernard Mwalala’s tactical acumen and ability to nullify the opposition’s strength evident in this match that had Simba frustrated.

I had the honour to sit with the man himself — Mwalala —while joking about his stifling tactics. First, the fact that he played in Tanzania for Young Africans (Yanga) for close to 10 years came in handy for Mwalala. He knew the Tanzanian players’ general mindset and had included in his match programme a detailed “what to do” list. The youthful coach revealed how Tanzanian players dread running back to help in defence.

Mwalala’s plan was to run them rugged. The introduction of David King’atua, Hassan Abdalla and William Wadri, proven ball carriers with the ability to dribble at pace, was a game changer. The impression was for them hold the ball up-field so that Yanga’s attack-minded, three-pronged midfield, together with the attacking duo of Meddy Kagere and Sadney Urikhob, retreat back in order for them to recover ball.

Even if they did, they had to contend with Bandari’s choking high press forcing them to build up attack slowly from the back while Bandari recovered their positions.

This way, as Bandari’s double holding midfielders Collins Agade and Hamisi Abdalla sat deep, the midfield trio siting behind lone striker Yema Mwana and given the license to run with the ball to the flanks in order to exploit Simba’s bombing full-backs while attracting attention from the Tanzanians’ attack minded midfielders.

Simba had diamond-shaped midfield, marshalled by James Kotei siting at the base of the diamond while Clatous Chama, siting on the spear-end of the diamond, offered huge attacking overload for the Bandari defence. To mitigate against this threat, Mwalala uncharacteristically ordered both his full-back of in-form Fred Nkata and Nicholas Meja to stay put.

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This way, Simba’s main avenue of attack through the flanks was nullified.

Secondly, playmaker Clayton Chama lacked the discipline of the defence-minded Kotei and most of the time, he was found out of his position while attempting to join in attack in order to isolate Bernard Odhiambo from his fellow center back Felly Mulumba. This is where Wadri and Hassan wreaked havoc in the midfield running with the ball from deep to attract the attention of Chama, Dilunga and Yassin.

That’s why Bandari defence was mean only allowing half chances in the first half.

From this permutations, Bandari won tactically and contained Simba throughout the first half up until Fred Nkata got a rush of blood in his head losing concentration thus leading to Meddy Kagere finding space in-between Odhiambo and the out of position fullback to score the opener in first half stoppage time.

Also, in the second half, Bandari seemingly knew that Simba players were tiring.

In came big man and aerial threat Wycliffe Ochomo whose diagonal runs created space for Abdalla Hassan to exploit.

Mwalala’s tactics off the pitch needs a mention. Since they were required to play as many as three games within a week, there was the possibility of fatigue creeping in at crucial moment. Given the match conditions of 32 degrees Celsius and humidity at a suffocating 67 percent high, all Bandari had to do was a light training session dominated by players rehearsing their pre-planned running patterns while conserving energy.

Lastly, and the most important of all was Mwalala’s tactical nous employing former Yanga teammates to do for him opposition research scouting all of Simba’s training schedules while bringing up-to-date intel.

Despite losing to the Sharks, Bandari and Mwalala will remain the talking point in Dar for many days to come.



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