BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
WARRIORS’ number one goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze is back in the mix at his South African club Baroka where he has been heavily involved in several games recently after a long spell on the bench.
The FC Baroka captain had appeared to be losing his first team shirt at the club, a development which had triggered fears it could affect his international career with the Warriors. The Zimbabwean goalkeeper was given the armband last year to replace Gerald Phiri.
However, having helped steer his team from relegation after he was appointed captain, he seemed to have fallen down the pecking order with Oscarine Masuluke often starting most of the games.
Since featuring in the 1-1 draw against Golden Arrows on November 4 last year, the former Chicken Inn goal minder had been struggling to hold down a first team shirt and was often restricted to the bench amid a dip in form.
Before that, he had played six games since September 22 and conceded nine goals including four in the defeat to Super Sport United.
Chipezeze was picked to keep goal for the Warriors when they travelled to Algeria for the first match of the back-to-back 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifier.
He was blamed for one of the goals the Warriors conceded in a 3-1 defeat in a match where he suffered an injury and was replaced by former Chapungu goalkeeper Talbert Shumba in the second half.
Shumba, who joined Zambian premier soccer league side Nkana FC went on to keep goal for the Warriors during the second leg of the match in Harare which ended in a 2-2 stalemate.
Upon returning to his base in South Africa, Chipezeze seemed to struggle to reclaim the first shirt, but the Zimbabwe international now appears to have reclaimed his place as he has been playing a huge part in the team’s battle for survival.
He started in the 1-3 defeat to Super Sport on December 19 but missed the following match against TS Galaxy on January 5 which ended in a 2-2 draw, amid reports of illness.
He was back in the starting line up on January 9 but the team lost 2-0 against Mamelodi Sundowns. He also played a part in a 1-0 losing cause to Swallows on January 16 and in the 3-2 win away to Stellenbosch. The Baroka skipper was also heavily involved in the 2-0 defeat to AmaZulu on January 23.
The Zimbabwean international has, however, been on the bench in the last two matches against Kaizer Chiefs and Cape Town City.
The development should excite Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić as he focuses on qualifying the Warriors for the African Cup of Nations finals to be staged in Cameroon later this year.
Algeria, with 10 points, have already booked a ticket to Cameroon while Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia will fight for the remaining slot in the group.
Zimbabwe, in second place in their group with five points, have all the advantage as they have an away fixture against Botswana before taking on Zambia at home. Botswana are third on four points with Zambia at the foot of the table with only three points.
With the top two teams qualifying for the tournament, the Warriors need a win in their next match against Botswana to be guaranteed a place at the tournament. Zimbabwe can, however, still afford to draw against Botswana and then beat Zambia in the final match to qualify
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