Darikwa breaks 18-month duck BACK IN BUSINESS . . . Zimbabwe international football defender Tendayi Darikwa played his first match after 18 months out with injury when he featured for English League One side Wigan Athletic

Eddie Chikamhi

Senior Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE international Tendayi Darikwa finally tasted competitive league football for the first time in 18 months with a man-of-the-match shift as his new club Wigan Athletic settled for the share of spoils in a six-goal thriller against Rochdale in the English League One on Saturday.

The 29-year-old completed his move from Championship Nottingham Forest last week. However, the Zimbabwean defender was unlucky not to bag maximum points on debut after Wigan Athletic allowed 10-man Rochdale to come back from the dead by conceding a 96th-minute equaliser as the match ended in a 3-3 draw.

Darikwa, who is a key member of the Zimbabwe national team in the current Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, was naturally relieved with his first outing for Wigan.

According to a report from the Nottingham Post, the industrious fullback showed no signs of rustiness on his return to league football despite spending a year-and-a-half on the sidelines due to injury.

UK publication, Wigan Today, gave him a rating of 8/10 and named him as their man-of-the-match.

In his review of the game, Wigan Today sports reporter Paul Kendrick wrote: “STAR MAN: Tendayi Darikwa: 8 — Hard to believe it was his first club game for 18 months, up to speed immediately and looks to have plenty to offer.”

Darikwa himself took to Twitter after the game, saying: “18 months later . . . finally back out there disappointing result but we keep moving forward together.”

The UK-born Zimbabwean international is one of the key players expected to feature in the decisive 2021 AFCON qualifying encounters against Zambia and Botswana this coming March.

Darikwa was desperate for league football and was forced to go down to the third tier of English football to ensure he continues playing. He had fallen out of favour at Forest where manager Chris Hughton indicated he no longer had plans with him following a long lay-off caused by injury.

The 29-year-old suffered a ruptured ACL on the eve of the last campaign and only returned at the back end of the season. He was an unused substitute in the final weeks following the restart of Championship football after the coronavirus-induced break.

To add to his woes, Darikwa had not played a part in this year’s campaign despite recovering fully from the knee injury. Critics and some of the Reds fans felt the Zimbabwean was not given a fair chance by Hughton to fight for his place after his return.

However, he has represented his country with pride in recent months. He was a key man when the Warriors got a point in the back-to-back AFCON qualifiers against African champions, Algeria.

Darikwa had been training with Forest’s first team as well as building his match fitness with the Under-23 side.

He now looks to reignite his career at the Latics after sealing a short-term contract that will take him to the end of the season.

Another Zimbabwean international, Martin Mapisa, continued with his fine start to life in the Spanish Segunda B after he kept a second successive clean sheet in as many games at the weekend.

Mapisa featured in Zamora’s 2-0 victory over Coruxo on Sunday. The Zimbabwean goalkeeper played the entire 90 minutes and finished with his head high after he managed to keep another clean sheet.

The appearance is his fourth this season across all competitions after featuring in two games in the Copa del Rey.

Zamora are on second position in the Segunda B table with 18 points from 10 games. Mapisa kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory over RC Deportivo on his debut last week. The Aces Youth Soccer Academy product is slowly taking over the gloves from the experienced Spaniard, Jon Villanueva, who turns 31 this March.

Warriors defender Teenage Hadebe featured as his Turkish side, Yeni Malatyaspor, came from behind to win 4-1 against Çaykur Rizespor.

In France, Tino Kadewere and Marshall Munetsi suffered late heartbreaks. Kadewere’s Olympique Lyon dropped from the summit into third place in the French Ligue 1 following the 1-0 defeat to Metz on Sunday night.

The match had appeared headed for the share of spoils and could have extended Lyon’s unbeaten run to 20 games but Metz’s Aaron Leya Iseka changed the script with a 90th minute strike. Munetsi’s Stade de Reims, who are down the ladder on 15th place, also suffered the same fate when Jonathan David struck a minute into stoppage time for second-placed Lille. Munetsi was a 59th minute substitute.

In South Africa, Ovidy Karuru was nominated by football publication Soccer Laduma for the DStv Premiership Player of the Week accolade voted online by football fans.

The midfielder featured in Black Leopards’ 2-0 stunning victory over Orlando Pirates at the weekend.

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