Tuesday 19 November 2019


KHAMA BILLIAT was the hero last night with a double strike that powered the Warriors to an historic AFCON qualifying win over Zambia at the Heroes Stadium.

The Kaizer Chiefs forward found himself at the right place, at the right time, on two occasions of this encounter to inspire his side to a memorable victory.

It marked the first time the Warriors have won an AFCON qualifier against Zambia. Four of their last matches, at this level of the game, have either ended in defeat or draws.

But, when they needed to find their act again, after a poor Nations Cup campaign, and a lifeless performance against Botswana, the Warriors responded in the best way possible. 

Although the Warriors’ fans might have fancied a win in this match, after the Zambians slumped to a 0-5 thrashing at the hands of Algeria last week, the history of this derby was always weighing down on the team.

But, Billiat changed all that, with the help of his captain Knowledge Musona, and the Warriors eased into second place in their group in the race for a place in Cameroon in 2021.

Algeria, the African champions, lead the group with six points, following their 1-0 win over Botswana on Monday, and Zimbabwe are in second place on four points.

The Zebras are in third place, with a point pick-pocketed at the National Sports Stadium, while Chipolopolo anchor the group with no point.

They have now conceded seven goals in their first two matches and score only one.

It hasn’t been a good time for Zambian football with the national team failing to qualify for the 2017 and 2019 AFCON finals. 

However, a four-goal demolition of Namibia, in their final 2019 Nations Cup qualifier at home, appeared to suggest this team could roll back the years and become a force to reckon with again.

After last night’s defeat, many will be questioning if they were right to start believing things were about to change for the better.

With the Warriors also under pressure, after being booed by their fans in that draw against Botswana, coach Joey Antipas made one change and brought in Kuda Mahachi while Knox Mutizwa retreated to the bench.

Billiat was given a somehow free role, not on either wing, but somewhere in the centre where the Warriors, like the Spanish team that conquered the world, were playing without a recognised central striker.

And, the move paid dividends with the Smiling Assassin reminding everyone he is still very much a force to be considered for national duty.

Billiat’s brace, either side of half-time, both from Musona’s assists, proved the difference.

The Warriors, just days after being jeered by their fans, somehow won the love of the Zambian fans who ended up cheering their moves when the result of the match became inevitable.

In fact, as soon as Billiat scored his second of the night about 11 minutes from time, the fans started throwing missiles onto the pitch as they called for the removal of interim coach Agrey Chiyangi from the post.

Zimbabwe received a standing ovation from the crowd after the final whistle but still had to be escorted by armed police to the changing rooms as missiles rained their way.

Antipas had instructed his charges to go for the kill and they responded accordingly.

With Musona and Billiat dictating the pace, Mahachi and Marvellous Nakamba both came close to breaking the ice in the opening five minutes.

And, after 10 minutes, Billiat silenced the vociferous crowd when he timed his jump to perfection to direct a ball, swung into the box by Musona, into the far corner.

Some defensive frailties, down the right channel of the Zimbabwe defence, helped the Zambians to find the equaliser.

Patson Daka picked a loose ball on the left side of their attack, with the hesitant Nekati failing to obstruct him, and the star forward sprinted all the way before unleashing a left-footed shot that beat Elvis Chipezeze on the near post.
The goalkeeper knows he should be saving such efforts at this level. Of course, the shot had venom but he was covering that area.

The hosts seized the initiative, with Evans Kangwa having a road show, but Zimbabwe stood resolute and defended well.

The sight of Alec Mudimu punching the air with delight, after he had made a timely intervention, showed these Warriors badly wanted to win this match.

Antipas was ecstatic after the win.

“We are very happy as a team after we managed to beat Zambia in their backyard,’’ the coach, who was ridiculed by the team’s fans four days ago, said. 

“We came with a positive mentality and played positive football. The game was a balanced affair and we are happy we managed to find our way back after that poor draw in our opener against Botswana.

“We are relieved as a team and we look forward to the next matches next year.”

Chiyangi failed to pitch up for the post-match press briefing, instead delegating his deputy Numba Mumamba who apologised profusely for the loss.

“Apologies for this loss at home. We know we have disappointed the passionate fans, it was a lack of communication in defence.

“Otherwise, we played well. We should even have won the game had we converted our chances,” he said.


Zambia: M. Chibwe,L. Chungu, T. Mwape (K. Mubanga 90th min) E. Kangwa (M. Mwape 69th min) E. Mwepu, J. Shonga,C. Kabaso, D. Malama, N. Sankala, P. Daka, A. Mulenga

Zimbabwe: E. Chipezeze, I. Nekati, R. Pfumbidzai, A. Mudimu, M. Munetsi, O. Karuru, K. Billiat, T. Hadebe, K. Mahachi (P. Dube 60th min) , K. Musona (P. Jaure 84th min) M. Nakamba (B. Ncube 90th min) Herald


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