BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
TWO days after the Warriors gave Zimbabweans something to cheer about when they beat Congo Brazzaville to qualify for the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, the Young Warriors followed in their footsteps with an identical scoreline to snatch win over Mozambique to show that the future is bright too.
They may not have put up a polished performance, but they got the job done when it mattered most, keeping alive their hopes of qualifying to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
For them, the goal was to make it to the next round of the Under-23 Nations Cup, where they will have a shot at the Olympics ticket.
Yesterday’s success will see them meet South Africa in the final round of the qualifiers, with the finals set for Egypt this November.
For moments, they looked like they could crash out of the race as they struggled to prise open Mozambique’s defence.
Tonderai Ndiraya’s men, who had held Mozambique to a goalless draw in Maputo, needed a victory to advance.
However, they struggled for fluency and often resorted to long and hopeful balls.
With most of their passes going astray, Mozambique were just too happy to fasten on to the loose balls and dominated the first half.
The Young Warriors were noticeably rusty due to inactivity, maybe because the league season is yet to start.
While, the visitors had several shots on target with Hermenegildo Mario and Ernesto Nilton coming close, their goalkeeper Victor Alcino was barely tasted.
However, the introduction of Anelka Chivandire, Obriel Chirinda and Delic Murimba late in the second half provided the magic that turned the game on its head.
Chivandire, who came in for Matifadza Zata on 64 minutes added creativity and mobility in the team. And it became a question of when rather than if they would score. Chirinda, who came in for Wilfred Muvirimi on 84th minute collected a pass, beat two defenders before unleashing a rasping shot that found the bottom corner of the net with his first touch, two minutes from full time. Then Murimba, who came in for the out of sorts Prince Dube doubled the lead at the death after profiting from a wonderful set up by Chivandire.
Ndiraya was pleased with the victory, but was quick to admit his side had laboured for it.
“I want to admit that we didn’t have it easy, it was a very difficult match for us, we knew these guys were a very strong team, so we had a plan to let them control the first half,” he said.
“We struggled with basics in the first half. We made a little change in the second half, especially after the substitutions and so we started to control the match. We played Obriel and Murimba in Mozambique and today we had to make a plan B. I think the plan worked because at the end of the day we got the result that we wanted. We are all happy to have gone through and we will prepare for South Africa.”
Mozambique coach Victor Martine was naturally disappointed to miss out.
“We played a tough team today and we controlled the first half, which was good, but unfortunately we lost control of the game and conceded two goals and we lost. It goes to fitness level, the boys were tired and we lost. We are really disappointed and it is unfortunate for the people of Mozambique that we could not qualify.”
Zimbabwe: M Mapisa, E Ndlovu, P Makaha, S Nyahwa, T Chisi, M Ndlovu, T Tavengwa, L Mavhunga, S Patrick, M Zata (A Chivandire 64’), P Dube (D Murimba 75’), W Muvirimi (O Chirinda 84’)
Mozambigue: V Guambe, D Muze, C Mathe, M Gulube, F Sousa, D Macandza, K Cumbane, N Ernesto, B Langa, F Simbine, H Capeno (A Martin 75’), V Mario,