Zimbabwe . . . . . 0
Tanzania . . . . . . .0
(Zimbabwe won 4-2 after a penalty shootout)
It was a bruising, nerve- wracking and gut-wrenching semi-final clash at Rufaro Stadium on Thursday, but Zimbabwe eventually edged out Tanzania in a nail-biting penalty shootout to set up a mouth- watering final against defending champions South Africa.
Mighty Warriors goalkeeper Onai Chingawo emerged from that ordeal as a superwoman.
Not only did the inspirational captain save a penalty from Sophia Edward Mwasikili during the game, but she also dived the to correct side to deny Fatuma Khatibu Salum and Fatuma Bashiri Makusanya during the dreaded penalty shootout.
The hosts scored their kicks through Nobuhle Magika, Emmaculate Msipa, Kudakwashe Bhasopo and Erina Jeke to send the home crowd into frenzy.
The Twiga Stars scored their two kicks through Mwasikili and Mwahamisi Omary Shuruwa.
The Mighty Warriors battled the whole second half of the match with 10 players following the expulsion of roving right-back Eunice Chibanda who was alleged to have tripped Shuruwa in the box.
Chingawo attributed yesterday’s success to the whole team which showed a commendable level of self-belief that enabled them to fight all the way with one player down.
“I’m happy that I saved two penalties, but all credit should go to the whole team for showing great fighting spirit. Even when we were a player down, we kept on fighting and we deservedly won the match. Also, I want to thank the supporters for backing us all the way. Now we have to focus on the final against South Africa but I’m really confident that we will win this time around,” said Chingawo.
The Mighty Warriors started the match on the offensive with the impressive Marjory Nyaumwe outstanding but were let down by some wayward shooting from the ever reliable striking pair of Rudo Neshamba and Rufaro Machingura.
Machingura was the first to get a real scoring chance when she latched onto a through pass from Neshamba as early in the first minute but skied her effort.
The hosts continued to create one chance after the other, but every time a player in a yellow and gold jersey shot at goal, they missed the target.
Machingura had the ball in the back of the net though in the 34th minute, hitting from a rebound off a Tent Mandaza freekick which had rattled the bar, but the referee ruled the effort an offside.
Tanzania were relying much on counter-attacks and one resulted in a penalty when Chibanda tripped Shuruwa as she charged towards goal, but Chingawo saved the resultant kick.
The Mighty Warriors, despite being a player down in the second half, continued to charge forward and looked the likely team to win the match. Erina Jeke’s effort in optional time was cleared off the line as the hosts pressed for the opening goal.
The Zambian referee blew the whistle to end the match, setting up a nerve-wrenching penalty shootout.
With Salum and Makusanya having missed their kicks, it was left for Jeke to win the match for Zimbabwe and the pint-sized player did not wither under that pressure, hitting the roof of the net.
There were hugs, there was moisture around the eyes and there was an ovation of appreciation around the stadium as the appreciative crowd went into utter delirium after the penalty shootout.