Warriors beat Comoros
WARRIORS coach Callisto Pasuwa says he was not entirely pleased with his team’s overall performance yesterday as a youthful Zimbabwe side laboured to victory in the opening match of the Africa Nations Championship soccer qualifiers against minnows Comoros at Rufaro.
Zimbabwe, who have qualified for every edition of the tournament since its inception in 2009, fielded a team comprising mostly Under-23 players and still managed to get off to a positive start courtesy of goals from Evans Rusike and Marshal Mudehwe.
Hwange forward Rusike made his presence felt early in the game when he powered into the box with a fine display of skill and fired a low shot to the far right of the goalkeeper for the Warriors’ opener 10 minutes into the game.
But Comoros held their ground and appeared to absorb the pressure until the 88th minute when Mudehwe sneaked in the Warriors’ insurance goal.
Although Pasuwa was happy with the positive start, he felt that his team could have won by a bigger margin and make their task easier in the return leg if they had been more creative and more purposeful in the final third.
Pasuwa said his team was lacking in terms of cohesion, creativity and shooting prowess.
“We won but again it was a matter of change of pace when we were getting into the attacking third.
“We were not where we wanted to be in terms of offensiveness.
“We wanted to open them up because they were leaving too many spaces at the back, of which we could have had many scoring opportunities,” said Pasuwa.
Zimbabwe took control of the match in the 10th minute when Rusike combined skill and power to storm into the opponents’ penalty box with a brilliant move which he capped with a well-struck grounder that gave the goalkeeper Said Haifa no chance.
The Warriors had just missed a good opportunity moments earlier when midfielder Nqobizitha Masuku was set up by Thomas Chideu, only to shoot weakly into the waiting arms of the goalkeeper.
Most of the home team’s players had a subdued game and struggled to convince a sizeable crowd that had come to cheer them on.
Wisdom Mutasa, who looked a pale shadow of himself before he was hauled out in the second half, came close to scoring from a free-kick in the 15th minute, but the ball bounced off the crossbar after he was teed up by skipper Danny Phiri.
Mutasa was again at the end of another brilliant move by Blessing Moyo in the 34th minute, but the FC Platinum man couldn’t keep his shot down after controlling the ball well inside the box.
Warriors debutant Devine Lungu made a good attempt just before the breather, but his grounder to the near post was scrambled out by the keeper after the Comoros defenders had made a mess of a clearance from a corner kick.
The Chicken Inn left-back, however, did not last the whole 90 minutes as he was stretchered off injured after twisting his knee on the hour mark.
The Warriors appear to have won back the hearts of the fans with their recent performances and they had a huge backing from the home crowd yesterday.
Fans favourite Ronald Chitiyo was involved in most of the moves but the Dynamos man could have been angry with himself after the match as he misdirected most of his shots from good positions.
But just when despondency was beginning to creep in among the fans, Mudehwe sparked wild celebrations in the stands with the much-needed insurance goal with two minutes remaining in regulation time.
Mudehwe took his shot well in a crowded box to ensure Zimbabwe will have a good margin to defend in the return leg in the Comoros in two weeks time.
Comoros had done well to limit the damage and the introduction of veteran player Said Anfane helped stabilise their game in the second half.
The teams will clash in a fortnight in the return leg with the winners set to face either Botswana or Lesotho in the second round.
Zimbabwe have qualified for every edition of the CHAN tournament since in 2009.
They reached the semis at the previous finals hosted by South Africa last year.
Pasuwa and his men are looking to make it again to the fourth edition in Rwanda early next year.
“Winning 2-0, it’s okay for us considering the fact that they didn’t score here. But it’s football, anything can happen.
“Now that we know Comoros, we need to sit down and plan for them in the next leg,” said Pasuwa.
Comoros coach Said Ali Athoumam said he had expected a difficult game against Zimbabwe and the defeat did not come as a shock to him.
Besides, Athoumam said he was missing some of his key players in this match and was also worried by the evident effects of fatigue that was showing on his players.
He said they only had one week of preparations.
“We knew when we came here that Zimbabwe are stronger than Comoros.
“They are more experienced and it was always difficult to play them at home. But it’s good experience for a small country like Comoros,” said Athoumam.
Zimbabwe: D. Bernard, B. Moyo, D. Lunga (P. Mpelele, 61st minute), L. Chakoroma, T. Hadebe, D. Phiri, N. Masuku, W. Mutasa (M. Mudehwe, 67th minute), R. Chitiyo, E. Rusike, T. Chideu (T. Kadewere, 85th minute)
Comoros: S. Halifa, H. Youssouf, M. Abdedenan, D. Hunblot, M. Mehangama, F. Goula, S. Ali, C. Mradabi (S. Anfane, 68th minute), A. Ahmed, F. Faidine, M. Daoud (A. Boina, 88th minute)