Warriors hold Super Eagles OPEN FIRE . . . Walter Musona scored Zimbabwe’s goal from a free-kick

Tadious Manyepo in BUTARE, Rwanda

Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(1)1

Nigeria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0)1

ZIMBABWE put on a fine performance that merited a win which could have been historical but at the end settled for a point in this 2026 World Cup qualifier at Huye Stadium yesterday.

They were facing a giant of an opposition that has dominated them for a long time on a difficult astro turf at an adopted ground in Rwada’s biggest city.

And for once, the Warriors took to the driver’s seat with Walter Musona scoring a beauty of a free-kick 26 minutes into the match before substitute Kelechi Iheanacho levelled the affair six minutes after the hour mark.

It was a game Zimbabwe needed to win to keep in touch with Group C leaders South Africa especially after posting a goalless draw in the opening game against Rwanda last Wednesday.

They had been in Rwanda for a week and with Nigeria, who were also held to a 1-1 draw by Lesotho in their opening game last week arriving less than 24 hours before the match, Zimbabwe ought to have used that to their advantage.

But they did battle, they did thrive and even dominated both the ball and territory for better parts of the game.

For once, they captured the imagination of many Rwanda-based Zimbabweans, who turned out in huge numbers to back the team.

They rolled back the hands of time with sleek passing football especially in the opening stanza as debutant Andy Rinomhota just showed how important this generation of the “British Brigade” could be for the national team.

They were so good that even coach Baltemar Brito felt the performance warranted a victory despite the stature of the opposition they were facing.

“I am happy but disappointed as well,” Brito said.

“It was a really good game of football by the players. They gave it their all and I think for all the effort they deserve to be praised.

“I salute this group of players for their committed fight in the field.

“It was a close contest but I think we fashioned out the best chances. Nigeria were in our box very few times.

“I think we had a chance to win the game but credit to the players for the fight”.

With Jordan Zemura and Rinomhota in form of their lives, the Warriors controlled the opening moments but they were a bit jittery at the back conceding two corner kicks in the opening 20 minutes.

Nigeria however, failed to take advantage of that and when Zemura picked a loose ball and slalomed past a thicket of the Super Eagles players, he was impeded and Zimbabwe got a free-kick.

Musona stepped up and launched a rocket that nestled into the nets to give the Zimbabweans a spring.

The Warriors started to dictate the pace and could have added at least one more goal.

Nigeria began the second half with a lot of intent as Zimbabwe sat back to defend the slender lead.

They could have scored after referee Souleiman Ahmed Djama controversially ruled that goalkeeper Donovan Bernard had handled a back pass and awarded Nigeria an indirect free-kick inside the box.

But the Zimbabweans were alert and cleared their lines. Moments later, Iheanacho scored after some lapse in the Warriors defence.

But the game was there for the taking with Teenage Hadebe and substitutes Tanaka Shandirwa and Devine Lunga missing really good chances.

Teams

Zimbabwe: Donovan Bernard, Andrew Mbeba(Divine Lunga 82min), Gerald Takwara, Teenage Hadebe, Jordan Zemura, Marvelous Nakamba, Andy Rinomhota (Tanaka Shandirwa 82min) Marshal Munetsi, Walter Musona (Obriel Chirinda 69min), Prince Dube (Munashe Garan’anga 69min), Tino Kadewere (Terrence Dzvukamanja 90min)

Nigeria: Francis Uzoko, Olufisayo Temitayo (Bright Osayi-Samuel 46min), Oluwasemilogo Ajayi, Alexander Iwobi, Terem Moffi (Sadiq Umar 77min)

Frank Onyeka, Bruno Onyemaechi (Jamilu Collins 85min), Moses Simon, Nathan Tella (Kelechi Iheanacho 46min), Ayodele Oluwaseyi, Ughelumba Chniedu

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