ZIMBABWE. . . . . . . . (1) 1
ZAMBIA . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
THE Mighty Warriors stepped closer to qualifying for another major football tournament when they beat Zambia in a 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations final round first leg at Rufaro Stadium yesterday.
BY HENRY MHARA
Kudakwashe Bhasopo’s lobbed effort in first half optional time gave Zimbabwe the advantage ahead of the second leg in Zambia on Sunday.
The women’s team, which is on a roll, consolidated their strong position by keeping a clean sheet ahead of the second leg away match.
At least a draw for the Shadreck Mlauzi-coached side in Lusaka will see them qualifying for the tournament’s finals to be hosted in Cameroon this November.
They have already done it big by qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics and a berth at the women’s premier continental showcase beckons.
But while they got the important result and a clean sheet, they will be the first to admit they could have played better.
Mlauzi believes the performance is more important at this stage, than anything else.
“We are a good side, particularly the defensive aspect, we rarely concede,” he said.
“What we wanted was to avoid conceding at home. We are happy with the result. It’s like we got two goals because when we go there, we won’t sit back, but we will attack and search for goals to consolidate this result.”
Zambia coach, Albert Kachinga was confident his side would turn the tables back home, vowing that he would not allow the Mighty Warriors to qualify for two major finals at their expense.
“We are still in this one. It’s unfortunate we lost here, but I believe we can win at home and qualify,” he said.
“We can’t have Zimbabwe going to both the Africa Cup of Nations and the Olympics, we won’t allow that to happen. I’m also not happy with the referee’s performance. She was biased because I could see that all the decisions were going against my team.”
Zimbabwe knocked Zambia out of the Olympic qualifiers in the initial stages.
Yesterday, the home side started well and could have opened the scoring in the first minute, but Erina Jeke sent her powerful shot over from inside the six-yard box.
No clearcut chances were created, thereafter, despite the hosts dominating possession, to the frustration of a number of supporters, who attended the match and sporadic boos sounded, particularly in the first half.
However, the mood would change in the first half’s added-on time when a long ball from the midfield released Bhasopo through the centre, and the forward, who got a starting berth after a long time coming in from the bench, showed that she had it, with a shot lobbed over Zambian keeper Hazel Nali.
The Mighty Warriors returned a better side from the break, moving the ball faster and stretching their opponents by making use of the full width of the pitch.
Merjury Nyaumwe should have given her side another goal early in the second half, but she shot over from a good range.
Zimbabwe were almost punished for that miss when Rhoda Chileshe found some space inside the box, but dragged her shot wide although goalkeeper Chido Dzingirai appeared to have it covered.
Zambia’s dangerous forward duo of Hellen Mubanga and Barbra Banda were a nuisance in the Zimbabwe box, but never really tested Dzingai.
Emmaculate Msipa, the best player on show, pounced on a rebound, but she miscued her shot, before Nyaumwe wasted another good chance with five minutes remaining.
The midfielder controlled a high cross from substitute Mavis Chirandu to set herself up, but shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Mlauzi’s team had strong appeals for a penalty turned down by Cameroonian referee Therese Neguel, when substitute Samkeliso Zulu was bundled over inside the box late on.
Zimbabwe: C Dzingirai, S Makoto, N Majika, L Mutokuto, P Mujuru, T Mandaza, E Msipa, F Muzongondi (S Zulu, 68′), M Nyaumwe, E Jeke (M Chirandu, 65′), K Bhasopo (D Kaitano, 89′)
Zambia: H Nali, A Kibanji, N Sosala (M Mwakapila, 83′), G Chianda, R Chileshe, M Walombe, A Mulenga, B Banda (E Mukwasa, 70′), G Zulu, M Tembo, H Mubanga.