Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Warriors’ 2-2 draw against Algeria in their opening Group B Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match in Franceville, Gabon, has inspired fans to believe the team will progress to the knock-out stages.
The Warriors put up a breathtaking first half show, giving little respect to their highly fancied opponents.
Zimbabwe, however, suffered an early setback when African Footballer of the Year Riyad Mahrez broke the deadlock in the 17th minute, curling the ball past a diving Tatenda Mkuruva after turning Costa Nhamoinesu inside out.
Winger Kudakwashe Mahachi levelled the score five minutes later with a well taken grounder that beat Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi.
The Warriors shocked Algeria in the 29th minute when Nyasha Mushekwi converted from the penalty spot after a foul on overlapping left-back Onismor Bhasera.
However, the Warriors defended too deep in the second half, allowing their opponents to come at them.
The pressure mounted by Algeria finally paid off in the 82nd minute when Mahrez completed his brace with a shot from outside the box. The resultant goal came after Warriors’ striker Cuthbert Malajila had fluffed a glorious opportunity to seal victory, shooting straight at M’Bolhi instead of passing the ball to an unmarked Mahachi, who was better positioned to tap into an empty net.
Despite seeing the Warriors surrender their lead in the dying stages of the game, soccer fans at Pub Lagondola in Bulawayo praised the national team.
Professor Butho Sibanda said: “This is a good result for us and the Warriors have shown that they didn’t go to Gabon just to make up the numbers, but to win. I’m sure they’re going to win their next game and remain on course to progress to the next stage.”
Batsirai Shoko felt the Warriors blew a golden opportunity to register a historic win.
“The guys defended too deep and by so doing increased chances of making errors. This is a match that we should have won with ease had we buried the chances we created. Following the display against Algeria, I think the Warriors have a chance to progress to the next stage if they can bury chances that come their way,” said Shoko.
Vusa Sibanda said: “To think of it that the Warriors with a plain or no-name kit managed to hold Algeria is amazing. It shows that the boys are not worried about the little details like failure to get a proper playing kit. They buried all the negative stuff which preceded the tournament and focused on the game.
It’s unfortunate that they failed to win. I think the coach’s second half tactic of defending deep caused problems for us towards the end of the game.”
Brian Masiye and Effort Gumbo questioned coach Kalisto Pasuwa’s benching of bustling Orland Pirates frontman Tendai Ndoro, scorer of the solitary goal against Cameroon in their final warm-up game.
“Without taking anything away from the team’s performance, I think Ndoro should have come on ahead of Malajila. Ndoro has been playing regularly at Orlando Pirates and as it is his confidence is high because he has also been scoring frequently, something that Malajila has failed to do at Bidvest Wits.
Otherwise if we correct our scoring problems, we have a chance of going through to the next stage,” said Masiye.
Gumbo said: “I think Pasuwa made wrong substitutions. Following the injury to Knowledge Musona, the introduction of Mathew Rusike wasn’t the best.
I’ll understand if Rusike played as a central striker, not as a winger. I think either Evans Rusike or Tino Kadewere would have done better as a winger. I’m also not convinced that Malajila is better than Ndoro. Anyway, I’m content with the score line even though I feel the Warriors blew a win. I wish them the best in their next game.”
The Warriors’ next game is against Africa’s number one ranked team Senegal on Thursday.
Article Source: The Chronicle