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Warriors’ heartbreak

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Algeria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 2
Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . (2) 2

By Kevin Mapasure in Franceville Gabon

Zimbabwe were left thinking of what could have been, as striker Cuthbert Malajila squandered an opportunity to put the Warriors 3-1 up, moments before they conceded the equaliser, in a match very few had given them a chance to get something out of.

With 81 minutes played, Malajila made the wrong decision that cost his team two valuable points in the first of their Group B match at the Africa Cup of Nations finals here last night.

Zimbabwe-celebrate-after-equalizing

Algeria forward, Riyad Mahrez cruelly punished the Warriors, after the Wits University forward opted to shoot at goal instead of teeing up the impressive Khama Billiat, who was better positioned to roll the ball into an empty net.

Taking the shot was not the worst decision, but it was a chance Malajila should have buried.

From the resultant clearance, the ball was soon delivered to the lethal Leicester City forward, who brought back his team to level terms and Malajila will no doubt be viewed as the villain.

However, Tatenda Mukuruva, in goal, should have done better to keep out Mahrez’s 25-metre shot.

Algeria, the overwhelming pre-match favourites, went one goal up through Mahrez, but were stunned by two goals from Kuda Mahachi and Nyasha Mushekwi.

In spite of Algeria bossing possession in the second half, where they spent almost the entirety of it camped in the Zimbabwe territory, this was a match Zimbabwe should have won.

They had done all the work approaching each half in two distinct styles and it looked like they had done enough with about 10 minutes to go.

It was a kick in the teeth for Zimbabwe, as they were on the verge of causing a major upset of the tournament and all they got was just one point.

But after the dust has settled, they will remind themselves that this was a result they would have taken before the match.

Coach Kalisto Pasuwa, admitted that the set objective before the match was to avoid defeat and they will be reasonably pleased that they managed that.

“Going into this match, we wanted to avoid defeat and maybe, because we picked one point, it was a morale booster, but going forward, we want to have a better performance,” he said.

He hopes that the team can learn from its mistakes, where they got chances after catching their opponents on the break, but failed to find the decisive goal.

Zimbabwe sat deep in the second half and Pasuwa said it was not by design and he would have wanted the team to have more ambition.

From the start, Algerian supporters’ music band bellowed loud in the early stages of the match. It matched their team’s high confidence and quick tempo, with which they approached the match. But long before the half time whistle sounded, the drums had gone quiet, as the orchestra had been silenced.

Mahrez’s beautiful curling shot after 11 minutes had been cancelled out by an equally sweet low shot that found the bottom corner by Mahachi, while Mushekwi thrust his team ahead from the penalty spot.

The Algerians were soon fretful and frantic on the pitch as well as silenced in the stands.

Mahachi proved a handful, as he probed and penetrated with his clever runs, while Billiat gave defenders quite some work toying and teasing with his fancy footwork.
Teams
Algeria; A Mbolhi, A Mandi, F Ghoulam, R Mahrez, N Bentaleb, Y Brahimi, I Slimani, E Soudani (R Ghezzal (77mns), A Guediora, M Belkhither, A Bensebaini
Zimbabwe; T Mukuruva, H Zvirekwi, E Muroiwa, C Nhamoinesu, O Bhasera, D Phiri, W Katsande, K Musona (M Rusike 10mins) K Billiat, K Mahachi, NMushekwi (C Malajila 78mns).

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