SENEGAL . . . . . . . (2)
ZIMBABWE . . . . . . . 0
Zimbabwe’s chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the on-going 2017 Africa Cup of Nations received a body blow when they were put to the sword by a classy, but wasteful Senegal side here last night.
BY KEVIN MAPASURE IN FRANCEVILLE, GABON
With the win, Senegal became the first team to qualify for the next stage at this tournament.
Zimbabwe will try to push their case when they clash with Tunisia, who beat Algeria last night, in an earlier Group B match in Libreville on Monday.
Senegal were brilliant on the night and the Warriors have goalkeeper, Tatenda Mukuruva to thank after he made a catalogue of saves to keep Zimbabwe in the game.
At times, the gap in class between Zimbabwe and Senegal, who named four English Premier League stars in their first 11 — Cheikou Kouyate, Sadio Mane, Mame Diouf and Idrissa Gueye of West Ham, Liverpool, Stoke City and Everton, respectively — was too obvious.
Zimbabwe have themselves to blame after a disjointed performance helped Senegal’s cause.
In the first half, Zimbabwe failed to match Senegal, tactically, technically and physically, but to their credit, they later grew into the match to avert what was threatening to become a total embarrassment.
Mane and Henri Saviet scored a goal apiece to set their side on course — all in the first 15 minutes.
In the first half, Zimbabwe started off on the back foot and never quite recovered.
Once the first goal was scored, it never looked like Zimbabwe could recover from this one, as Senegal maintained their camp in the Warriors territory.
As early as the third minute, Senegal fired warning shots when Lazio’s Balde Keita escaped from his marker before shooting narrowly wide with Mukuruva desperate and sprawling.
Three minutes later, Mukuruva saved his captain’s blushes when he when he left his line, spread himself big to narrow Mame Diouf’s target after skipper Willard Katsande had been robbed of possession.
But three minutes later, Senegal were not going to be denied, as Keita picked a stray pass by Mathew Rusike, raced forward and cut a low cross to give Mane a simple tap-in.
Diouf was left kicking himself moments later after he failed to connect a Lamine Gassan cross from the right and Zimbabwe survived.
The advantage was doubled just before the quarter of an hour mark from a set piece, with Saviet beating both the wall and Mukuruva to find the corner of the net.
The Senegalese were coasting and were enjoying the comfort of Zimbabwe’s lack of threat and hunger.
Sometimes, one felt for the Zimbabwean players, the class was just too different. One wondered whether there was anything they could do better.
In the second half, Zimbabwe had sporadic chances and the best fell to Khama Billiat, who blasted his effort high and wide when through on goal.
There was little to talk about in terms of Zimbabwe’s attack after coach Kalisto Pasuwa had substituted Mathew Rusike and Kuda Mahachi to replace them with Evans Rusike and Tendai Ndoro.
Even though the two had a bit of life in them, they could not influence the flow of traffic, as Senegal threatened to run riot.
At the other end, Diouf, Muossa Sow, Mane and Keita were all denied by Mukuruva.
A Diallo, S Mbodji, K Koulibali, C Mbengue, I Gueye, C Kouyate (Cheikou Ndoye 84), M Diouf (Moussa Sow 62), S Mane (Ismaila Sarr 90), K Balde, L Gassama, H Saivet
T Mukuruva, H Zvirekwi, E Muroiwa, C Nhamoinesu, O Bhasera, W Katsande, M Nakamba, M Rusike (Ndoro 46) , C Billiat, N Mushekwi (Malajila 82), K Mahachi (E Rusike 46)