Angola . . . . . . . . (2) 2
Zimbabwe . . . . . . . 0
(Zimbabwe knocked out on away goals rule after two legs ended tied 3-3)
‘THINGS fall apart.’
Report by Daniel Nhakaniso in Luanda, Angola
Chinua Achebe’s saying aptly sums up the Warriors’ latest failure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations football finals.
The Warriors squandered a glorious chance to qualify for next year’s Afcon after losing 2-0 to Angola in their Africa Cup of Nations final qualifying round at the Estadio 11 Novembro Stadium yesterday to miss out on the away goals rule.
Carrying a seemingly healthy 3-1 lead from the first leg, the Warriors choked when it mattered most and were punished after a horror show in the first seven minutes saw them concede two goals in a space of three minutes from star forward Manucho Goncalves.
The Warriors’ plans went up in smoke when the Angolans quickly erased their advantage after two thumping headers by the gangly Manucho.
The former Manchester United striker, who had been handed the armband for this match, shrugged off the challenge of Carlington Nyadombo to head home Mateus’ corner kick past Arial Sibanda in the fourth minute for the first goal of the match.
Hardly a minute later, the Angolans had turned the tables on Zimbabwe after winger Djalma dribbled past right-back Noel Kaseke before crossing the ball to Manucho, who this time connected the ball with a diving header to send the over 30 000 fans inside the stadium into delirium.
The goal thrust the Angolans in the driving seat to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa on the away goals rule while Zimbabwe could still have qualified with just a single goal.
The goal, however, never came. Instead the Angolans continued to flourish and with a bit of luck could have scored more goals.
The hosts exposed the Warriors’ failure to deal with set pieces straight from the outset.
Sibanda looked suspect in dealing with high crosses very early in the match, fluffing two consecutive corners in the first three minutes of the match.
The first corner was headed just over by Danny with the goalie nowhere in sight before the second was cleared for another corner after Sibanda had made a meal of the clearance.
Sibanda, who had come in for skipper Tapuwa Kapini, was, however, not lucky the third time as Manucho evaded Nyadombo’s challenge to open the scoring before doubling his team’s lead with another header soon afterwards.
Stunned by Angola’s two-goal blitz, Zimbabwe struggled to strike the right formula with the midfield combination of Tinashe Nengomasha, Archford Gutu and Vusa Nyoni struggling to hold on to possession.
Malajila had Zimbabwe’s first real chance of the game when he slid in at the far post just a shade slow to connect a low cross from Khama Billiat in the 15th minute before Knowledge Musona’s shot from outside the box was saved by goalkeeper Lama.
Billiat also had a chance when he dribbled past Lunginho, but instead of crossing the ball to an unmarked Musona, he decided to curl his shot at the far corner only to see his shot going just wide.
While the Angolans were in control after scoring two goals, Zimbabwe were by no means completely out of it, as they needed just a single goal to qualify.
The Rahman Gumbo-coached side returned back from the break a rejuvenated side in search of a goal which in the end never came as the team lacked the final touch.
However, it was the Angolans who created the more clearcut chances with Manucho and Mateus both coming very close to scoring while the latter blew a face-to-face chance after being denied by Sibanda’s pointblank save.
Even the introduction of Edward Sadomba and Kingstone Nkhata in the second half could not yield the desired result as the Angolans held on.
Warriors coach Gumbo said the goal they conceded in the first leg cost them the match.
“I think we lost the plot in Harare when we conceded that goal in the first leg,” he said after the match.
Zimbabwe: A Sibanda, N Kaseke, O Bhasera, C Nyadombo, E Nyandoro (c), V Nyoni (K Nkhatha, 45), T Nengomasha, A Gutu, K Musona (D Mukamba, 90), K Billiat, C Malajila (E Sadomba, 67)
Angola: Lama, Lunginho, Danny (Minjo Billic, 77), Kivuvu, Dede (Manuel 70), Djalma, Manucho (c), Zuela (Bastos, 21mins), Miguel, Pirolito, Mateus
Match officials: Kirwa Sylvester (referee, Kenya), Waimalwa Elias (Kenya, first assistant), Keirini Peter (Kenya, second assistant), Osano Moses (Kenya, reserve referee) and John Muinjo (Namibia, match commissioner)