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Draw disappoints Brito

It was the Warriors who created the best opportunities in the entertaining clash, with Teenage Hadebe, Devine Lunga and Tanaka Shandirwa wasting glorious chances late on, leaving their bosses frustrated.

Warriors coach Baltimore Brito was disappointed after watching his side surrender a halftime lead to share the spoils with Nigeria in an absorbing 2026 Fifa World Cup Group C qualifier at the Huye Stadium in Butare, Rwanda yesterday.

Walter Musona's cracker of a freekick gave Zimbabwe a 25th minute lead but former Manchester City star Kelechi Iheanacho curled home a beauty to beat goalkeeper Benard Donovan in the 67th minute to level matters.

Brito's men fought gallantly, dominating the first half while Nigeria took over control in the second half.

It was the Warriors who created the best opportunities in the entertaining clash, with Teenage Hadebe, Devine Lunga and Tanaka Shandirwa wasting glorious chances late on, leaving their bosses frustrated.

“I am happy but disappointed as well,” Brito said.

“It was a really good game of football by the players. They gave it their all and I think for all the effort they deserve to be praised. I salute this group of players for their committed fight in the field. It was a close contest, but I think we fashioned out the best chances. Nigeria were in our box very few times. I think we had a chance to win the game but credit to the players for the fight."

The draw leaves the two teams on two points each from their opening two matches of the World Cup campaign.

Brito made three changes to the team that played Rwanda in the opener on Wednesday, bringing in Jordan Zemura, Tino Kadewere and Andy Rinomhota in the starting line-up, the latter for his Warriors debut.

The Cardiff City star showed some glimpses and almost created the first chance of the game after 15 minutes but his through pass couldn't really pick Kadewere.

Munetsi had the first shot on target for the Warriors in the 22nd minute with his miscued effort fumbled by Nigeria’s goalkeeper Francis Uzoho who recovered well to stop the threat.

Three minutes later, Zimbabwe took the lead. Zemura won a freekick way outside the box, and Musona arrowed in a cracker which flew past the despairing hands of the Nigeria keeper.

Zimbabwe were at this point playing some beautiful passing game as they kept the ball away from their more illustrious opponents to easily take a deserved lead into the break.

While the first half belonged to Zimbabwe, the Super Eagles, who introduced former Manchester City star Iheanacho at the start of the break to try and add some bite, dominated the early stages of the second stanza as the Warriors somehow retreated into their shells, allowing the opponent to come at them.

The three-time African champions were presented an opportunity to equalise when the referee gave them an indirect freekick inside the Warriors penalty area in the 51st minute after adjudging that Donovan had handled a back pass. Some heroic defending saw the ball cleared off the line.

Zimbabwe were pressed deeper and deeper into their half and Nigeria eventually found the equaliser just after the hour mark.

A long ball from the back found Bright Samuel who picked fellow substitute Iheanacho to finish expertly.

The goal opened the game as both teams searched for the winner. Although Nigeria bossed possession, it was Zimbabwe who should have won it late on, but Lunga headed into the side netting on the back post from a corner kick.

Munetsi then ballooned over from a good range after Uzoho had dropped the ball from a freekick.

The France-based midfielder set up substitute Shandirwa deep in injury time, and with the goal gapping, the midfielder somehow shot over.


Zimbabwe: B Donovan, J Zemura, G Takwara, T Hadebe, A Mbeba, M Nakamba, M Munetsi, W Musona (O Chirinda, 67'), P Dube (M Garananga, 67'), A Rinemhota (D Lunga, 80'), A Mbeba (T Shandirwa, 80'), T Kadewere (T Dzvukamanja, 90+2')

Nigeria: F Uzoho, O Aina (B Samuel, 46'), A Ajayi, A Iwobi, T Moffi (U Sadiq, 77'), F Onyeka, B Onyemaechi (J Collins, 85'), M Simon, A Tella (K Iheanacho, 46'), A Aribo, C Chniedu


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