IT might not have been a perfect all-round performance, but at the end the Warriors made sure of a fine start following victory over a battling Comoros in a preliminary round, first leg of the 2016 African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifier before a good and supportive crowd at Rufaro Stadium yesterday.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
ZIMBABWE . . . . . . . . . . . . .(1) 2
COMOROS . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 0
Hwange forward Evans Rusike and FC Platinum’s Marshall Mudehwe scored the goals that counted for the Warriors to go into the second leg in Comoros with a healthy score line.
Kalisto Pasuwa’s charges went into the match ill-prepared having started preparations for the match late in the week, but once again put behind those problems to emerge victorious against the island nation.
Pasuwa was pleased with the victory, but said they still needed to improve in the attacking third.
“I am happy for the boys. They played well, but there are still a number of areas we have to improve. We need to change our pace when in the attacking third. We missed a couple of chances and need to work on our shooting,” said Pasuwa.
The Warriors started brightly, dominating the match and launching wave after wave of attack, but their finishing was poor with Wisdom Mutasa guilty of missing a number of chances.
Nqobizitha Masuku had a chance nine minutes into the match, but shot meekly at the keeper after a good lay on by Mutasa inside the box.
However, the impressive Rusike weaved his way past a couple of defenders on the right before drilling a low shot that beat Comoros goalkeeper Said Halifa to thrust Zimbabwe into the lead in the 10th minute.
That goal spurred the Warriors on as they continued to attack their opponents relentlessly, but Mutasa blazed over on 35 minutes following a wonderful delivery from Blessing Moyo.
Masuku missed a good opportunity after Thomas Chideu headed a good ball into his path on 43 minutes.
The visitors, who had one of their technical team members red-carded for remonstrating with the match officials, barely troubled steady Warriors goalkeeper Bernard Donovan.
They were overpowered by the Warriors especially in midfield where captain Danny Phiri and Masuku controlled with aplomb.
But the Comoros came into the second half trying to breakdown the home team and on 46 minutes, captain Mikjadi Dauouda had a chance, but watched in disappointment as Donovan flew high to fist the ball away.
On 56 minutes, Chadhuri Mradabi unleashed a thunderous shot which, however, drew yet another a fine save from Donovan.
A minute later, Mutasa missed a headed opportunity and Rusike had his effort blocked by the keeper on 67 minutes from a set up by Moyo.
But Mudehwe, who came on as a substitute on 67 minutes replacing the ineffective Mutasa, sew up the tie with a low shot at the stroke of full time, profiting from a pass by fellow substitute Tino Kadewera.
Meanwhile, Botswana were held to a goalless draw by Lesotho in the preliminary round qualifier at the Setsoto Stadium in Maseru yesterday.
Chances were few and far between in what was a tightly contested encounter which had been dominated by Botswana in the past.
Botswana did have the ball in the back of the net three minutes from time, but the assistant’s flag was raised to the dismay of the travelling side — leaving the tie in the balance.
The winner of this match will meet the winner between Zimbabwe and Comoros. The second leg matches are set for the weekend of July 3-5.
Zimbabwe: B Donovan, T Hadebe, L Chakoroma, B Moyo, D Lunga (P Mpelele 61st), D Phiri, N Masuku, R Chitiyo, E Rusike, W Mutasa, T Chideu (T Kadewera (86th min)
Comoros: S Halifa, M Dauouda (R Boina 90th), M Abdedenan, D Hunblot, M Ali Mehangama, F Faidine, F Goula ( S Hachin 90th), C Mradabi, H Massulaha, D Salif, A Alif.