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Warriors’ new gem Chirewa steals the show

WARRIORS coach Jairosi Tapera has heaped praises on Zimbabwe’s new-found gem Tawanda Chirewa who dazzled under the bright lights of Free State Stadium in South Africa on Tuesday to get his team’s consolation goal against the hosts.

WARRIORS coach Jairosi Tapera has heaped praises on Zimbabwe’s new-found gem Tawanda Chirewa who dazzled under the bright lights of Free State Stadium in South Africa on Tuesday to get his team’s consolation goal against the hosts.

Zimbabwe lost 3-1 to South Africa, but Chirewa left an indelible mark, with South African fans taking to social media to express plaudits for the 20-year-old Wolves forward.

Warriors fans also found something to gloat about following his impressive type of play.

Chirewa produced a piece of magic for his goal after taking a quick throw-in to captain Marshall Munetsi before he was fed back and left two defenders for dead.

He then picked his spot and toe-poked the ball past Rowen Williams in goal for Bafana Bafana, for the Warriors’ leveller just two minutes into the game.

Chirewa returned a few more times to force Williams into action, particularly when he turned and shot, only for the ball to narrowly miss the target.

This was only his second international match, having played 68 minutes in the match against Lesotho at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday.

“Chirewa was excellent. We had instructed him to play in-between the defensive midfield and the defence of South Africa and he did so well. (It’s) his second international game and he gets a goal. That was excellent. He is a clever young man and I think going forward, we have a gem in him,” Tapera said.

“We have a few young players coming in trying to gel with the senior players. I think it is just a matter of time. We are going to come right. Individually, we had a lot of positives which I think we can build on going forward.”

The Zifa normalisation committee have said they will appoint a substantive coach soon and it is unlikely that Tapera will be in charge the next time the team plays.

But he believes that the team has a bright future with a lot of young talented players coming through the ranks.

Chirewa was disappointed with the two results in this Fifa window, but is also excited about what the future holds.

“I think we will improve as a team. Obviously, we made a lot of individual errors and we did not take some of our chances, but we have good players and we will come right,” he told NewsDay Sport.

“I cannot be too happy because we lost. But I am proud to play for Zimbabwe. I have played two games and scored a goal, so I am happy about that part.”

Chirewa will be back representing his country in September when the Warriors begin the journey towards the next Africa Cup of Nations finals.

Born in Essex, England, to Zimbabwean parents, Chirewa made his name at Ipswich Town, where he made his debut on November 12, 2019, appearing as a second half substitute in a 0–1 away loss to Colchester United in an EFL Trophy group stage match.

At the time, he was the second youngest player to make his first team debut for the club, after Connor Wickham, at 16 years and 31 days old.

Chirewa signed his first professional contract with Ipswich in November 2020, signing a deal until 2022, with the option of an additional year’s extension.

In September last year, EPL captured the young prodigy, who joined the club’s Under-21 side and quickly impressed first team coach Gary O’neal, who gave him his senior team breakthrough as a second half substitute in the FA Cup away to Brentford in January this year.

In the same month, Chirewa made his Premier League debut, as a second half substitute in a 0–0 draw away to Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Warriors are now five points off the qualifying spot with six matches to go and Tapera has not lost hope of finishing at the top of the pile.

“There is a team on seven points (Benin). Before these two games, they were on the bottom of the table. But they only won two games and the rest is history. Let us just take this as a starting point and if we go back and organise ourselves for the next matches, you never know.”

Despite failing to pick up a single point in the two matches, Tapera was pleased with the team’s performance.

“In terms of goals we conceded, it was not good at all. But in terms of overall performance, I think we have got somewhere we can start from,” he said.

“I am proud of the boys in terms of how they executed in the two games besides that we lost. I obviously wanted to win, but the performance was not bad.”

The Warriors are now set to take on Benin (home) and Nigeria away in match day five and six of the Group C World Cup qualifiers in March next year.

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