Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 1
South Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
The highly-rated national Under-23 soccer side on Sunday crashed out of the race to the Zone VI All-Africa Games to be held in Maputo, Mozambique in September, despite beating South Africa in the second round, second leg match at Rufaro stadium.
Archford Gutu’s flashing header that beat Amaglug-glug goalkeeper Boaleta Pule two minutes after the restart was not enough to save the hosts’ campaign.
The Young Warriors lost the reverse fixture 2-0 and needed three clear goals to qualify or at least two goals to force the match into a penalty shootout.
Zimbabwe coach Friday Phiri looked dejected after the match and admitted the battle was lost in South Africa.
He also said the loss of midfielder Mathew Rusike, who was substituted midway through the first half due to injury, also contributed to his team’s demise.
“We made life difficult for ourselves when we conceded two goals in the first match, we lost the match in South Africa,” said Phiri.
“Our plan was to attack them and get an early goal, but unfortunately we had to change a lot of things after Mathew was injured. His (Rusike) injury was the turning point of the match. We wanted his power and physical presence upfront. But the players who came in did well and we managed to score two minutes into the second half. We should have scored at least one or more goals, but the opposition was very tight at the back, they didn’t give us space at the back,” added Phiri.
Phiri said despite his team not being able to make it to the All-Africa Games, the squad should be kept intact, a point that was echoed by his South African counterpart Shakes Mashaba.
“The team was just unlucky today (Sunday) but we have to keep these youngsters together. This is the future of Zimbabwe. We have to draft these players into the senior team,” said Phiri.
Mashaba was all smiles after the match.
“We made it a point that we score goals at home because we knew it would be hard when we come here and the plan worked well. We didn’t play well today (Sunday). All the boys save for one or two players were just flat. We couldn’t string at least three passes together, which is our strongest area, but we managed to get the result we wanted. The opposition was also good, Zimbabwe has good players and they don’t need to lose hope. They should keep the team together, they just need to improve here and there,” said Mashaba.
Needing three goals to qualify, the Young Warriors started the match on the offensive with Gutu testing the goalkeeper in the fifth minute with a right-foot curler that was however safely collected.
Striker Simbarashe Sithole was the next to trouble Pule’s goal area three minutes later, but his thunderous shot from the edge of the box was parried away by the vigilant goalkeeper with the home supporters off their seats.
The hosts continued to bombard Amaglug-glug, forcing six corners the first 30 minutes of the game, but could not find the breakthrough.
Their fortunes went from bad to worse when Rusike, who was by far the best player on the field, limped off after he was fouled by Thamsanqa Sangweni in the 37th minute.
Timire Mamvura’s shot from outside the box in the 38th minute flew over the bar, as desperation clearly started to creep in.
It was goalless at the break, but Zimbabwe’s hopes were ignited two minutes after the breather when Gutu’s header connected with a Mamvura cross from the right.
Zimbabwe tried hard at the end of the match with Joel Ngodzo, who had a subdued game by his standards, skying his effort from close range while Gutu and defender Lincoln Zvasiya also wasted good chances.
In the end South Africa managed to hold on to their one-goal advantage and qualify for the All-Africa Games finals.
Meanwhile Motor Action beat Monomotapa 2-1 to progress to the semi-final of the BancABC Sup8r semi-finals.
The league champions got their goals through Masimba Mambare and Temba Ndlovu at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare.
The Mighty Bulls join Dynamos in the last four after the Harare giants dismissed Hwange 2-1 at Gibbo Stadium in Chiredzi on Saturday.
Zimbabwe: A Sibanda, O Mwerahari, L Zvasiya, T Masika, M Mamvura, A Gutu, J Ngodzo (R Madamombe, 65), M Rusike (H Mavundi, 37mins), S Sithole, D Ngoma (T Tshuma, 77 mins)
South Africa: B Pule, D Mampuru, S Mxoyana, T Hlatswayo (W Letlabika, 56 mins), E Mathoko, T Zwane, S Vilakazi, T Sangweni, B Ndulula, C Fiandorp (T Motau, 62mins), P Bhengu