BY HENRY MHARA
ZIMBABWE . . . . . . . . . (3) 3
ESWATINI . . . . . . . . . . . (1)1
THE Mighty Warriors have put one foot in the second and final qualifying round of next year’s Africa Women Cup of Nations (Awcon) after beating eSwatini in the first round first leg match played at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
Veteran midfielder Merjury Nyaumwe gave Zimbabwe a third-minute lead when she volleyed home after the goalkeeper had punched back into play a freekick from Nobukhosi Ncube.
Priviledge Mupeti doubled the lead in the 16th minute with a well-taken grounder as the hosts threatened to run away with the match.
But Lesego Mokgale reduced the arrears when she outsprinted a defender before toe-poking past Mighty Warriors goalie Lindiwe Magwede.
This away goal will give eSwatini some confidence of overturning the deficit when the teams meet in the reverse fixture in Mbabane on Tuesday.
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Zimbabwe, however, made sure they would go in the return leg with a two-goal buffer after Emmaculate Msipa netted a third on the stroke of half-time.
The performance from the home side was far from convincing, although they will be expected to brush off an eSwatini side in the reverse fixture.
The visitors struggled throughout the match and it would take an effort for them to overturn the first leg result.
Mighty Warriors coach Sithelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda believes her team has done enough to progress to the next round.
“It was a great game because as a team, we managed to dominate possession and circulate the ball as much as possible, which is what we really wanted to do,” she said.
“It did pay off, with us getting goals in the first half. But a slumber in communication between the goalkeeper and defenders saw us conceding a goal. We could have done better there.
“We have a safe scoreline and we will go there and employ a different strategy. We managed to score three and I know we can also go there and score again, so we have a good lead.”
If the Mighty Warriors win the two-legged affair, as is widely expected, they will face the winner between Angola and Botswana in the second and final qualifying stage.
Zimbabwe played against Botswana at the Cosafa tournament and won 3-0.
The Mighty Warriors would be looking to making amends for missing the 2018 edition after they lost to Zambia in the last qualifying round on away goals rule.
Next year’s tournament will be held in Morocco and for the first time in its history, will feature 12 teams from the previous eight.
The addition of participating teams at the finals will obviously give teams such as the Mighty Warriors a chance to qualify.
They also have, on paper, what looks like an easy passage to their qualification prospects.
Next year’s Awcon tournament will also double as the African qualifiers to the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.
The top four teams will qualify for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and two more teams will advance to the inter-confederation play-offs with a chance to qualify for the World Cup.
Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara