STALEMATE IN GABON. . . Brave Warriors come close to dream start at Afcon

Warriors celebrate Kudakwashe Mahachi’s (centre) goal

Warriors celebrate Kudakwashe Mahachi’s (centre) goal

Eddie Chikamhi and Paul Mundandi
Algeria  2 – 2 Zimbabwe

ZIMBABWE’s Warriors came within minutes of causing a major upset as they turned on a hearty performance only to let slip through what could have been a famous victory over Algeria in their African Cup of Nations Group C tie against Algeria last night.

The Warriors were nine minutes away from victory when they were caught on the break as the Desert Foxes rallied from behind to snatch a draw via the effort of their double scorer Riyad Marez.

Yet the Warriors had bravely fought from an early setback in which they found themselves trailing after just 12 minutes off a Marez curling shot that beat a diving Tatenda Mukuruva.

The Warriors also suffered a huge set back to their game plan when talismanic forward Knowledge Musona hobbled off the pitch clutching his hamstring and coach Callisto Pasuwa replaced him with Mathew Rusike.

Zimbabwe, however, did not drop their heads after the double setback of conceding a goal and losing Musona and five minutes later they were back in it with Kuda Mahachi firing home an angled shot that rich in quality.

Nyasha Mushekwi then put the Warriors ahead for the firt time on the night when he coooly struck a penalty after Onismor Bhasera had been felled inside the box.

The Warriors could in the end have won the match with more precision and luck as Khama Biliat, brilliant all night twice came perioulsy close to finding the target only for the Algerian goalkeeper to deny him.

But it was Zimbabwe’s 81st minute chance that was sent begging by substitute Cuthbert Malajila that denied the SOutehrn African nation a memorable win.

Malajila had done well to steal possession inside the Algerian penalty box but then his finishing wasn’t as clinical when coming face to face with the goalkeeper.

The Bidvest Wits man also had Mahachi waiting unmarked to pounce but he chose to shoot at the goalkepepr’s outstethced legs.

Pasuwa reminded the reporters who had laughed at him during the pre-match press conference when he suggested that the Warriors were the favourites to win the match, repeating the feat of the 2004 Afcon finals in Tunisia when they humbled the Desert Foxes 1-2.

“I was asked a question which team is the favorite and I said Zimbabwe and you laughed,” said Pasuwa. “But there is no small team in this group. We think this point will motivate our boys to do better when we play our next game.”

Zimbabwe will face Senegal in their next match this Thursday. Pasuwa believes the point they got from Algeria will spur his charges to even want to achieve more.

The Warriors showed so much intent and in an entertaining match and returned blow for blow against the star studded Algerians.

The Algerians however, came back from the breather firing from all angles. The Warriors did their best to hold on to their lead and had to survive some anxious moments along the way with defender Elisha Muroiwa almost turning the ball into his own nets in a desperate attempt to clear his lines.

Algerian Ramy Bensebaini also crashed his header against the woodwork as Zimbabwe fought for their lives until the 82nd minute when Mahrez found the equaliser from a distant.

“Our main weakness was, maybe, we sat too deep and we were spending the whole day defending. But again we were catching them on the break most of the time and we missed the chances. At this stage you need to be very perfect in front of goal in order for you to win games.

“You saw the way we missed a chance and they went straight away and equalized. It’s another level of football and we have learnt a lesson also.

“On the point dropped, yes we can say so because it was only nine minutes before full time and we conceded a goal,” said Pasuwa.

Fromer Warriors mentor Sunday Chidzamnbwa hailed the Warriors for their superb performance in the Afcon opening match yesterday.

Chidzambwa is a member of the Zifa High Performance Committee (HPC).

“We managed to get a point in our first match something that we have never done for all the Afcon tournaments we participated. It is a plus for us because as Zimbabwe we have been losing all our opening matches

“We played very well in the first half and created a lot of chances.Billiat (Khama) was outstanding and Algeria were just lucky. Their goalkeeper saved two   efforts and we were denied by the post. We were very unlucky

“In the second we created one chance when Malajila failed to convert. We sat back in the second half a bit too much and we lost possession.

“We should have kept on attacking and   that is the best way of defending as far as I am concerned. I am happy that we managed to get a point,” said Chidzambwa.

Teams

Algeria: M’bolhi, Belkhiter (Meftah, 46’’minutes), Mandi, Bensebaini, Ghoulam, Mahrez, Guédioura, Bentaleb, Brahimi, Soudani (Ghezzal, 77’’minutes), Slimani

Zimbabwe: Mukuruva, Nhamoinesu, D.Phiri, Zvirekwi, Muroiwa, Bhasera, Katsande, Mushekwi (Malajila, 78’’minutes), Mahachi, Billiat, Musona (Rusike, 12’’minutes)

Article Source: The Chronicle