BY HENRY MHARA IN CAIRO, EGYPT
EGYPT . . . . . . . . .(1) 1
ZIMBABWE . . . . . . . 0
ZIMBABWE put up a good fight in their Africa Cup of Nations Group A opening match, but still lost to the hosts Egypt at a heaving Cairo International Stadium in Cairo last night.
A mistake by captain Knowledge Musona, on his 29th birthday yesterday, was capitalised on by Ibrahim Trezeguet, who beat goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda from the edge of the box in the 40th minute.
The blunder by Musona, who had a below-par performance by his standards, was probably the only major blot by the Sunday Chidzambga-coached side, who put up a gallant performance despite the problems that rocked the camp on the eve of this important match.
Reports of a player mutiny over bonuses emerged in the Warriors camp ahead of the match, with players reportedly refusing to train on Thursday.
The Warriors started the match as heavy underdogs against the Egyptians, who had the global superstar Mohamed Salah in their line-up.
Salah is this tournament’s poster boy, and many had expected Chidzambga to assign a player to track the dangerous winger everywhere he goes.
Surprisingly, the Liverpool star was allowed to roam around unattended and he caused a few problems in the early minutes.
However, for all the chances he created, Sibanda looked impenetrable with some good saves.
Zimbabwe threatened on the counter, and had a few half chances that they could and should have taken.
Mhofu’s plan was to frustrate the hosts in the opening 20 minutes, and the plan worked well, with the home team looking desperate as time wore on.
The noise from the 80 000 crowd inside the Cairo International Stadium lowered as the clock ticked towards the half hour mark.
On 36 minutes, the best chance of the game arrived, and it fell to the Warriors.
A quick-thinking Musona released Khama Billiat from a set piece, with the latter going eyeball to eyeball with goalkeeper Elsayed, and failing to covert it.
All the Warriors’ hard work was, however, undone following a mistake at the back when Musona gave away possession to the dangerous Trezeguet using the space
after he was left unattended by Tendai Darikwa who had galloped forward.
The Egyptian forward, who plays for Kasimpasa in Turkey, curled in a beauty from just inside the box, giving Sibanda no chance.
Trezeguet later forced a good one-hand save from Sibanda early in the second half as Egypt looked to wrap up the match with a cushion goal.
Mhofu was forced to make a goal-keeping change with 10 minutes remaining after Sibanda failed to shake off a knee injury he picked early in the second half
following a collision with Abdallah Bekhit.
Elvis Chipezeze came on ahead of the suspended George Chigova, and he kept his team in the match with a low save to deny Salah in the 85th minute, which was the last major highlight of the match.
Zimbabwe will face Uganda in the second group A match on Wednesday, and will take a lot of confidence going into that match after last night’s performance,
which preceded a scintillating opening ceremony.
Egypt: M Elshenawy, E Elmohamady, A Hegazi, M Alaa, A Elsayed, M Elneny, T Hamed, E Said (M Warda, 70’), M Salah, M Trezeguet (A Nabil, 80’), M Morsen (S
Zimbabwe: E Sibanda (E Chipezeze, 79’), T Darikwa, A Mudimu, T Hadebe, D Lunga, M Munetsi, M Nakamba, O Karuru, K Billiat, K Musona (T Chawapiwa, 84’), N Mushekwi (E Rusike, 81’)