It was celebration time at the giant National Sports Stadium Sunday as the nation celebrated the Warriors’ 3-0 drubbing of Liberia which revived hopes of qualifying for the continental football showpiece to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next year.
The stage had already been set for a carnival atmosphere way before kick-off as the fans turned out in their numbers to rally behind their national team.
The parking bays were full to the brim and some of the fans had to park their vehicles some 400m outside the giant facility.
There’s no doubt that more fans could have come to support their team had the gate charges not been prohibitive.
This scenario was last witnessed when the Warriors played Brazil in an international friendly in the run-down to the 2010 soccer World Cup that was held in South Africa.
However, with a few empty spaces in the stands, the loyalty of the fans was never in question as they did their best to unsettle the visitors while at the same time making it easy for the players to settle in the match.
The defence marshalled by skipper Method Mwanjali and Daniel Vheremu hardly put a foot wrong, limiting the visitors to just one corner-kick after 35 minutes in the first half.
Norman Mapeza’s men quickly calmed the fans’ nerves with an early goal which was fired home by Willard Katsande.
Before long, the fans were already in song and dance and doing the Mexican wave after man-of-the-match Ovidy Karuru had doubled the Warriors’ lead with a well taken header just before the breather.
Karuru, who won the penalty that sank the Malians, was a marvel to watch everytime he was in possession of the ball, twisting and turning his markers with the effectiveness of a veteran.
Even a brief lapse in concentration early in the second half which allowed the Liberians to come back strongly in the match, was not costly as the defence stood firm before Billiat drilled the final nail in the Lone Stars coffin.
In the end who could have blamed Warriors goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini for dancing in front of the eastern bay as he made his way to his team’s dressing room after helping Zimbabwe to a deserved 3-0 win over the Lone Star of Liberia?
The experienced shot stopper who is famous of his comical antics had kept the Warriors in the game with three crucial saves early in the second half as his team briefly took the foot off the gas pedal after storming to 2-0 half-time lead.