Warriors coach Norman Mapeza said he was satisfied with his team’s performance following the comfortable 2-0 victory over Southern African rivals Zambia at Rufaro Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Midfielders Willard Katsande and Khama Billiat, who both play for Ajax Cape Town in South Africa, hit their maiden national team strikes in a two-minute spell either side of half-time to lead Zimbabwe to a thoroughly deserved victory in a match they dominated.
Mapeza was using the match to prepare for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Liberia on September 4.
“We did very well and I’m happy with the performance of the guys, but I think in the later part of the game the guys tended to relax, which I think should not happen in a game of football, but generally I’m happy with the result.
“We created a lot of chances, but unfortunately we managed to get only two goals. Otherwise the game was good preparation and I think we are moving in the right direction.
“I really want to thank Zifa for organising this international friendly match as it really helped us to prepare and gave us a good opportunity to prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia.”
Mapeza also applauded the performance of Billiat and man-of-the-match Katsande describing their performances as “fantastic”.
Billiat was a menace on the left flank, constantly terrorising the Zambian defenders with his fancy footwork and combining well with the left-back Vusa Nyoni and France-based Ovidy Karuru, who was playing just behind the lone striker Edward Sadomba.
Katsande gave a mature display in midfield by providing crucial passes and snuffing out most of the opposition chances and combining well with Tinashe Nengomasha.
Following Wednesday night’s display “Bute”, as Katsande is affectionately known by the fans, should have done enough to cement a place in the crucial creative midfield role which Zimbabwe has struggled to fill since the retirement of Ronald Sibanda.
Katsande was also the difference when he came on as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 win against Mali at the same venue on June 4, combining well with Karuru who won the penalty that made the difference that afternoon.
With defensive stalwart Thomas Sweswe and striker Nyasha Mushekwi ineligible for the Liberia clash due to suspension, Mapeza said he was impressed with the performances of Daniel Vheremu and Sadomba who were called up to fill those roles.
“I think Dan (Daniel Vheremu) did very well and Sadomba upfront in place of Mushekwi did very well although it wasn’t easy for him. He can only get better,” said Mapeza.
Zambia were the better-ranked team occupying 74th position on the world rankings and 17th in Africa while the Warriors are on number 86 in the world and 21st on the continent.
Zambian coach Italian Dario Bonetti, who was unbeaten at the helm of Chipolopolo in three games played this year prior to this game, conceded that his team had lost to a better side.
“Zimbabwe played better than us. Most of my players were not in good condition due to the off-season, but we lost to a better team.
“Our defence lost concentration and made mistakes in the last minute in the first half and didn’t recover at the start of the second half and Zimbabwe capitalised. However, Zimbabwe gave us good preparation for our Afcon qualifier,” Bonetti said.
Bonetti was using the friendly to have a look at his options ahead of Chipolopolo’s penultimate 2012 Afcon Group C qualifier away to Comoros Islands on September 4.