ZIMBABWE’S hopes of progressing to the next round of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations hang in the balance after they failed a must-win test against Uganda in a Group A match at the Cairo International Stadium last night.
BY HENRY MHARA IN CAIRO, EGYPT
Captain Knowledge Musona was once again the villain after he missed three glorious chances that could have seen the Warriors win the match comfortably.
Needing victory to have a realistic chance to go through to the next round, the Sunday Chidzambga-coached side had a terrible start to the match, gifting Uganda a glorious goal-scoring opportunity put away by Emmanuel Okwi after just 11 minutes.
The Warriors responded well, pulling one back through Khama Billiat, who connected a cross by Ovidy Karuru.
Zimbabwe created three clear-cut chances, which all fell to Musona, but the usually-reliable forward fluffed all of them.
Following the draw, Zimbabwe now need to beat the Democratic Republic of Congo in their last group match on Sunday to have a chance to go through to the knockout stages.
Meanwhile, Uganda and have put one foot into the next stage with four points in the bag.
Chidzambga made four changes to the team that lost to Egypt, and three of them were injury forced.
Chigova, who was suspended for the first match, reclaimed his position from Edmore Sibanda, who was injured anyway.
Danny Phiri was chosen ahead of Marshal Munetsi, while Thabani Kamusoko came in for the injured Marvellous Nakamba in the starting 11.
With Nyasha Mushekwi injured, Knowledge Musona assumed the target man position, with Talent Chawapihwa taking up the wing area.
Uganda made a good start to the match, knocking the ball around confidently, while the Warriors seemingly employed a wait-and-see approach.
The East Africans took the lead in the 11th minute following two mistakes by Devine Lunga and Chigova, who spilled Michael Azira’s shot into the path of Emmanuel Okwi, sweeping home.
The goal awakened Zimbabwe from their slumber, and they started to work the ball well, creating chances, with Chawapihwa and Billiat causing havoc in the wings.
Musona skied his effort from inside the six yard box on 22 minutes after a brilliant set-up by Billiat, who himself later dragged a shot wide moments from almost a similar position, as the Warriors set up camp in the Uganda box.
It was a matter of time before the Warriors found the equaliser as they created chance after chance.
When the leveller eventually arrived after 40 minutes, it came in style.
A cross by Lunga was chested down by Musona into the path of Karuru, who took the ball onto his stride and into the box, before he picked out the run of Billiat, who deftly guided it beyond goalkeeper Dennis Onyango.
Chidzambga’s men could have taken the lead shortly after halftime after another brilliant interplay involving Billiat and Karuru, who crossed for Musona who inexplicably hit the underside of the bar from point blank range.
Billiat, despite his performance, felt that he was partly to blame for Zimbabwe’s failure to win.
“We let the nation down. We need to step up and take more responsibility. We needed to take our chances. We didn’t get the result we want, but we will take the point and move on. We will try to work hard as strikers and try to get a good result in the next match,” he said.
Zimbabwe: G Chigova, T Darikwa, A Mudimu, T Hadebe, D Lunga, D Phiri, T Kamusoko (M Munetsi, 65’), O Karuru, T Chawapihwa (E Rusike, 63’), K Billiat, K Musona
Uganda: D Onyango, G Walusimbi, R Mukiibi, W Hassan, B Mugabi, M Azira (T Lwanga, 60’), F Miya, K Aucho, E Okwi (A Kyambadde, 72’), A Lumala, P Kaddu