Sikhumbuzo Moyo in BULAWAYO
Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 3
Lesotho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 1
ZIMBABWE’S Warriors turned on the show in the second half to overpower Lesotho at Barbourfields yesterday and put one foot into the 2016 African Nations Championship finals.
Striker Rodreck Mutuma struck twice, including one from the penalty spot, while Knox Mutizwa was brilliant in the second half and was involved in all three goals scored by the Warriors.
Despite not getting his name onto the score sheet, Mutizwa, who was initially not in the squad that was announced by ZIFA, turned the game around as he terrorised the visitors’ defence together with the dribbling wizardry of Marshal Mudehwe.
The Highlanders forward earned Zimbabwe a penalty in the 48th minute when he was hacked down inside the box by Lesotho defender Tsoanelo Koetle, whom he had cleverly side-stepped.
Mutuma made no mistake from the spot, smashing the ball into the top right corner of the post to give Lesotho goalkeeper Mohau Kuenane no chance.
Mutizwa was again fouled in the 57th minute by Basia Makepa and Mutuma scored his second goal from the resultant free kick that had been floated into the box by Ocean Mushure.
Mutizwa then laid back a beautiful pass for his captain Danny “Deco” Phiri, who unleashed 30-metre grounder past Kuenane, in the 79th minute for the third goal.
“Fans should expect more, even if I didn’t score, I feel I played well,” said Mutizwa after the match.
The Warriors were backed by a big and appreciative crowd.
The match kicked off with the visitors eager to get an early goal to unsettle their hosts. Jane Thabantso found himself unmarked inside the box in the seventh minute after the Warriors’ Blessing Moyo was caught napping, but shot off target.
Three minutes later, Barbourfields erupted when Mudehwe sold Thapelo Mokhehle a dummy just outside the 18-yard box before rounding him and leaving him sprawling on the ground as he charged towards goal.
However, the FC Platinum winger’s final execution did not match his dribbling skills. In the 14th minute a nice exchange of passes involving Mutuma and Mutizwa saw the latter’s effort going just over the bar from inside the box.
A minute later, Mudehwe dispossessed Thabantsa on the centre line, played the ball to the ginger-haired Mutuma, who stylishly laid the ball into the path of the overlapping Mudehwe, who made a solo run towards enemy zone, but again his last touch let him down when the fans were already on their feet expecting a goal.
Moyo nearly scored a spectacular goal straight from a corner kick in the 24th minute as he forced Kuenane to summon all his reflexes, going airborne to punch the ball out for a throw in.
Phaiga Tsosane was nearly gifted an opportunity by Stephen Makatuka, who missed the ball completely, momentarily giving possession to Tsosane, but the CAPS United man was quick to recover and thwart the danger.
Four minutes before the breather, Thabantso had a headed effort, off a Tsosane cross from the right, going over the bar with ‘keeper Donovan Bernard off his line.
The second half saw Zimbabwe piling on the pressure on their visitors as they hunted for an opener and it took only three minutes for the fans to be jerked off their seats in celebration.
Mudehwe won possession in the middle of the park, charged forward, Mudehwe chose the perfect moment to lay a sitter for Mutizwa, who quickly charged into the box and side-stepped Koetle, who hacked him down, leaving Tanzanian referee Wazir Shesha Wazir with no option but to point to the spot.
Mutuma hit the roof of the net.
Zimbabwe kept surging forward in search of another goal and Mutizwa, who had dropped a little bit deep, rounded off two Lesotho midfielders, forcing Makepa to foul him.
From the set-piece, Mushure delivered a difficult in-swinger into the box that found Mutuma, who virtually pushed the ball into the net with his stomach. Mutuma, though, was guilty of losing possession that resulted in the Lesotho face-saver four minutes later through Seturumane’s left footed shot from the penalty spot that beat a diving Bernard.
Warriors’ coach Callisto Pasuwa made two quick substitutions; first taking out Bruce Kangwa for Edmore Chirambadare in the 70th minute and five minutes later Mutuma for Brian Muzondiwa, as the Warriors pushed for an insurance goal.
The changes paid dividends after Chirambadare orchestrated a move that ended with Phiri getting the third goal.
The left-footed Chirambadare shrugged off a challenge from a Lesotho defender, passed the ball to Mutizwa, who was just outside the penalty box.
Mutizwa spotted his captain making a run towards goal and laid the ball to him and Phiri gave Kuenane no chance.
“It’s been a while since I scored such a goal. It was a good set up by Knox,” said Phiri. Pasuwa thanked the fans.
“We started on a low tempo and that allowed them to keep possession, but in the second half I think we played well, partly due to the 12th man, our supporters,” said Pasuwa.
Zimbabwe: D. Bernard, B. Moyo, T. Hadebe, O. Muchure, D. Phiri, T. Kutinyu (T. Chipunza, 60th min), B. Kangwa (E. Chirambadare. 70th min), M. Mudehwe, K. Mutizwa, R. Mutuma (B. Muzondiwa, 75th min), S. Makatuka/
Lesotho: M/ Kuenane, T/ Koetle, T. Mokhehle, B. Makepa, M. Ntobo, M. Mofolo, L. Lekhanya (J. Kamela, 68th min), R. Mokhahlane, T. Seturumane, P. Tsosane, J. Thabantso.