CAPE TOWN — Zimbabwe coach Ian Gorowa has praised his defenders for doing an excellent job in the on-going Africa Nations Championship (Chan) which has seen them qualify for the semi-finals.
Skipper Patson Jaure and Eric Chipeta form the central defence while Milton Ncube and Hardlife Zvirekwi are the wingbacks. Goalkeeper George Chigova has conceded one goal in four matches.
“The defence has been our strength going forward and also the goalkeeper Chigova who made some fine saves. Mali tried to take command of the midfield, but we took our chances early in the game and we were happy to win 2-1,” Gorowa said.
Although the coach said they were not happy to concede their first goal of the tournament from the four games played, they were happy to keep advancing.
He also picked out defensive midfielder Danny Phiri whom he said was the key man doing most of the spade work in defence.
Phiri, nicknamed Deco, does his work silently, winning balls in midfield, cutting off the opposition play and harassing midfielders.
He plays very well when paired with the attack-minded Peter “Rio” Moyo, who was man-of-the-match against Burkina Faso.
Phiri, though, has often struggled when played together with the unconvincing Tawanda Muparati.
On Saturday, the Mali defence was not in a position to move forward because of constant harassment by goalscorer Simba Sithole of How Mine (later injured), but when he and Moyo were taken out, the Warriors defence suffered.
Gorowa added that they had made history in their country by being the first group of the Warriors to reach the semi-final of a major African competition and also to be the only Southern African nation still flying the flag high.
Chigova, still struggling with a knee injury, had kept clean sheets against Morocco, Uganda and Burkina Faso until Saturday’s match.
Meanwhile, Libya booked their place in the Chan semi-finals beating Gabon 4-2 on penalties after full-time and extra-time ended 1-1 at the Peter Mokaba Stadium last night. Libya will now take on Zimbabwe in the last four on Wednesday.
Gabon had the first chance of the game when Samson Mbingui struck the woodwork with a ferocious shot in the 14th minute.
Libya did create their first chance soon after when Abdelrahman Fetori put his free-kick just wide of the target with 23 minutes on the clock.
Romuald Ewuota Ntsitsigui then came close on the half-hour mark when his well-struck free-kick was headed out of danger.
Both sides failed to show any real quality in the final third as the game went into the half-time break deadlocked at 0-0.
Libya then finally managed to open the scoring five minutes into the second period when Abdelsalam Omar lobbed Yves Stéphane Moto Bitseki from 18 yards to make it 1-0.
Gabon did manage to claw their way back into the game when they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty after Fetori was adjudged to have committed a foul in the box.
Former Hull City striker Daniel Cousin stepped up to slot the spot-kick home and level matters at 1-1 in the 74th minute.
Neither side was able to break down their opposition defence and find a winner in the 90 minutes taking the game into extra-time where again both sides struggled to find a winner and the game went into a penalty shoot-out.