Wednesday, 17 October 2018

WARRIORS : WE ARE ALMOST THERE

ZIMBABWE’S Warriors might not have reached the Promised Land last night but they put one foot into the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals after they were left to contend with a share of the spoils with the Democratic Republic of Congo at the National Sports Stadium last night.



The draw might have disappointed a home crowd that was ready to party into the night but it remained vital for Sunday Chidzambwa’s men as they took a step closer to the Dreamland.
It might not have been the kind of showing they had anticipated to put on at home but the Warriors still took the point and will fancy their chances of grinding another result on their next assignment away in Monrovia against Liberia next month.

The Warriors, who maintained their place at the top of Group G, got off to the best possible start to the game after midfield magician Khama Billiat put them ahead with under two minutes played.
But a defensive gaffe handed the visitors a lifeline when defender Teenage Hadebe turned the ball into his own nets under pressure to clear a dangerous cross into the box by Issama Mpeko.

Zimbabwe still lead the group with a three-point cushion after the group’s underdogs Liberia upset Congo Brazzaville 2-1 in Monrovia last night to take the two sides to four points apiece.

Chidzambwa told reporters after the game that although he had wanted maximum points to join the likes of Senegal, Madagascar, Tunisia, Egypt and hosts Cameroon who secured their places yesterday, he was happy that the Warriors are still in the right direction.

The four crucial points they picked from back to back ties against Group G top seeds DRC were crucial.

Zimbabwe beat DRC at the weekend in Kinshasa and the draw last night took their tally to eight points while DRC retained second place on five points.
“I think we all know that DRC are not a small team. They are a very big team and we did well to come away with three points in DRC.

“It doesn’t happen often there. They came here with a very good game plan but we had ours and, I can say, the plans drew. These things happen in football,” said Chidzambwa.

Zimbabwe, who were already missing captain Knowledge Musona and centre back Alec Mudimu through suspensions, were forced to make an 11th hour change to their starting team after hardworking defensive midfielder Danny Phiri injured himself during warm up.

They suffered a further blow with 30 minutes played as goalkeeper George Chigova limped out injured having gone down twice in pain on the night.

But they had already settled their nerves with Billiat getting his second goal of the campaign just as some in the estimated 45 000 crowd were still trickling into the giant stadium.

Billiat was at the right position and his first touch, when he bundled the ball to the back of the nets from close range, torched wild celebrations in the stands after getting to the end of a nicely threaded pass by Talent Chawapihwa, who had done all the hard work down the right flank.

Despite the gate charges having been raised to $5 for the cheapest ticket to meet the huge bill of playing the back to back encounters, the Zimbabwean fans responded in a big way to the passionate plea by Zifa to fill the giant stadium.

Zimbabwe thought they had doubled their lead in the 21st minute when Knox Mutizwa made an easy tap in following an exchange of passes between the captain of the day Ovidy Karuru and Billiat.
Instead it was the visitors who equalised two minutes later when Hadebe miscued his effort in a desperate attempt to steer the ball away from one of the Congolese dangermen Yannick Bolasie who was prowling in the box.

DRC were still dangerous with the aerial balls and they used their big frames to the maximum 
advantage, bullying the home players at will but they could not get enough clear-cut chances.
Their fêted China-based forward Cedrick Bukambu almost stole it after Hadebe mistimed a bounce but substitute goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda did well to save a low shot from Benik Afobe.

“We knew it was going to be a very difficult game for us, we knew they were going to come at us. I think the biggest problem we had today is injuries and suspensions. We missed three key players but these things happen in football. Otherwise we were unlucky not to get three points.

“I thought the youngsters played well today. The young boy from FC Platinum (Kelvin Moyo) played well. It’s unfortunate we conceded an own goal, also these things happen in football but I am happy with the performance of the boys.

“We look forward to getting a good result in the next match, which is Liberia. I just hope we are going to play well,” said Chidzambwa.

DRC coach Florent Ibenge was disappointed by the draw as he had hoped to avenge the home loss they suffered in the first leg in Kinshasa.

DRC will face neighbours Congo away in Brazzaville in their next assignment while Zimbabwe travel to Liberia.

The Warriors will round off the campaign at home against Congo next year in March with DRC hosting Liberia.

Teams
Zimbabwe: G Chigova (E. Sibanda, 30th minute), T Darikwa, R Pfumbidzai, T Hadebe, K Moyo, M Munetsi, M Nakamba, O Karuru (R Chinyengetere 78th minute), T Chawapihwa (T Dzvukamanja, 89th minute), K Billiat, K Mutizwa

DRC: A Mossi, M Issama, C Luyindama, M Tisserand, J Ikoko, C Mbemba, J Maghoma (Mundele, 88th minute), F Ngoma, Y Bolasie, C Bakambu (Meshack, 88th minute), B Afobe (N. Kebano, 70th minute)
Group G Results at glance
Zimbabwe 1, DRC 1; Liberia 2, Congo 1

Log standings
P W D L G A Pts
Zimbabwe 4 2 2 0 7 3 8

DR Congo 4 1 2 1 6 5 5
Congo 4 1 1 2 6 7 4
Liberia 4 1 1 2 4 8 4

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