Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
Zimbabwe.. . . . . . 0
Botswana . . . . (1) 1
WARRIORS coach Sunday Chidzambwa was not impressed after his band of locally-based players slumped to a rare defeat to Botswana in the inaugural Zimbabwe President Independence Cup at the National Sports Stadium yesterday. The Warriors had been expected to put the icing on the cake on activities to commemorate the nation’s 38th independence anniversary, but Kobamelo Kabaikanye’s 21st minute strike spoiled the party at the giant stadium.
The result was not surprising given that the Warriors had not prepared adequately for the game.
The team failed to cope with the pace and fitness of the visitors and could not find a response to the first-half setback, much to the disappointment of the 60 000-strong crowd.
But amid the frustrations, Chidzambwa was still impressed by the quartet of Chapungu winger Ian Nyoni, Richard Hachiro of Herentals, Yadah’s Leeroy Mavhunga and Ngezi Platinum goalkeeper Donovan Bernard.
Nyoni and Hachiro, making their Warriors debuts, came on as second-half substitutes.
The veteran coach has been working with different players since he was appointed substantive coach a few months ago with a mandate to lead Warriors to the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
However, Chidzambwa said the country was suffering from a severe crisis of creative players in the mould of talented former Zimbabwe international Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda after his midfield failed to click yesterday.
He was worried the same problem manifested itself at the Four-Nation Invitational tournament in Zambia last month where he had a different set of players.
“Gone are the days when we had players like Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda, Lloyd Mutasa. We really need to look around for players of that calibre in that central midfield.
“In Zambia we had Nakamba (Marvelous), Ovidy (Karuru) and Marshal Munetsi. I wasn’t happy with their performance. We could have easily won that tournament had we been good in that area. We were not creative at all.
“I think we really need to look around for those creative central midfielders. We still have a problem in that area. But I was happy with that Herentals boy Richard Hachiro.
“He came in, stamped his authority and there were lots of movement in that area. And I think we need to look around as well and find youngsters like him and then we sort out this central midfield,” said Chidzambwa.
Hachiro, who was playing in the national team colours for the first time caught the eye with his movements after he replaced Winston Mhango soon after the restart.
The Warriors enjoyed the exchanges early in the game with Yadah winger Mavunga lively on the right flank while Augusto looked auspicious upfront where he had a generous supply of balls.
However, Zimbabwe never troubled the visitors and could have found themselves trailing as early as the 18th minute following a defensive blunder. They had goalkeeper Bernard to thank after thwarting a curling shot from Thatayaone Kgamanyane.
But Kebaikanye made no mistake with a low shot from a distance following yet another lapse in the defence.
Zimbabwe never recovered from the blow and Chidzambwa, who is yet to win a match since he was confirmed Warriors head coach a few months back, yesterday said the match against Botswana was an eye opener especially on his preparations for the COSAFA tournament which kicks off next month and the AFCON qualifiers resuming later in the year.
“I would rather lose all the friendly games and then win the AFCON qualifiers. We were trying local players but come the qualifiers we will have a strong mixture of local and foreign-based players.
“It was a good practice game. We have seen that some of the players cannot play in front of 60 000 people. They were very nervous especially in the first half.
“They made too many back passes, we lost ball possession on many occasions,” said Chidzambwa.
Some hooligan elements among the supporters blighted an otherwise beautiful afternoon throwing missiles at the teams as they made their way to the half-time break, forcing the visitors to hold their pep talk on the pitch.
Yet Botswana were content with the one goal they scored early in the game and looked to punish Zimbabwe through counter attacks. Botswana coach David Bright said he was using the match to prepare for the COSAFA tournament set for South Africa.
“This is a new team which we are trying to assemble for COSAFA. So I am happy with the win and the way we managed the game after scoring I think it was fantastic.
“These guys had strong character. They can fight, they played according to our instructions because we just told them that once we get a goal we will definitely not allow them to score.
“So this is exactly what happened. We wanted to catch Zimbabwe on the counter which we missed one or two goals which could have made it three for us. But we knew very well that they will not penetrate our central defence and that’s why we managed to get that 1-0 win,” said Bright.
Meanwhile, Bulawayo City edged a youthful Highlanders’ side 4-3 on penalties in another Independence Day celebration match at White City after the two teams had deadlocked 0-0 in regulation time.
Zephaniah Ngodzo, Justin Kaunda, Rainsome Pavari and Sipho Ndlovu converted their spot kicks for City, while Timothy January’’s effort was saved by substitute goalkeeper Nedrick Madeya.
Bosso’s spot kicks were converted by Andrew Mbeba, Thabo Lunga and Onwell Gombami. Darlington Dlodlo and Vincent Moyo’s penalties were saved by City keeper Wellington Muuya.
Highlanders’ coach Madinda Ndlovu fielded mostly players from Division One developmental side Bosso 90.
Only Adrian Silla and Thabo Lunga have featured in the 2018 Castle Lager Premiership.