Senior Sports Reporter
THE battle between Zimbabwe and Algeria cascaded down to the CAF social media corridors where Warriors captain Knowledge Musona was edged out by the Desert Foxes skipper Riyad Mahrez.
The duo were fighting for the best goal of the last two match days of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.
Musona’s goal, which came via a pinpoint free-kick taken from the edge of the box at the National Sports Stadium, was celebrated by the continental football mother body among the best four scored during the recent qualifiers.
The strike helped Zimbabwe claw back into the game, after they had fallen 0-2 on Monday, courtesy of goals from Andy Delort and Mahrez’s wonder strike.
CAF designed a 24-hour poll, featuring four goals from the two rounds of matches.
Mahrez’s dazzling finish and Musona’s superb free-kick were shortlisted together with Ghana’s Andre Ayew and Ibrahim Amada of Madagascar goals for their countries.
CAF set Twitter ablaze when they set up the poll with the words: “Solo effort; Perfectly-placed shot; Pinpoint free kick; Rocket strike.
“Some outstanding goals from the past two matchdays, which of these four is the greatest?”
The poll closed yesterday with Mahrez taking the bragging rights, after his goal received 50 percent of the votes.
Musona’s goal was a close second, with 44 percent of the votes while Ayew and Amada had identical three percent of the votes.
A total of 51561 Twitter users took part in the poll. Mahrez’s votes translated to 25 677 and Musona had 22 687.
Interestingly it boiled down to a two-horse race between the two captains of Group H’s leading teams, a day after another Twitter storm featuring the supporters, had left the two opponents further apart.
A Twitter user by the name Lilian Marcus angered many Zimbabweans when he took a jibe on Zimbabwe’s rankings, and further labelled the Warriors a bunch of “factory workers and farmers.”
“A top player, like Mahrez, shouldn’t be applauded for doing this against these factory and farm workers paraded to play football.
“Against farmers from Zim? Come on, anyone can do that against ZIMBABWE!’’
Many Zimbabweans responded with disgust to the banter, some of which had repulsive racial undertones.
The Zimbabweans teamed up on Twitter, to get their measure of revenge through the poll, and it appeared they would silence their opponents when Musona led the poll with 49.4 percent of the vote, with three hours remaining, before voting closed. Mahrez had accrued 43.4 percent of the vote while Ayew and Amada had both posted 3.6 percent of the vote.
However, the poll took a sudden twist when the Algerians turned to their French chapter of the Manchester City Twitter handle for support.
The tweet “@ManCityFra a little help?” by Mahrez’s fan group appeared to swing the vote in favour of Mahrez.
The handle has a massive following of almost 100 000 fans and the administrator did not take long to retweet before more votes poured in support of Mahrez’s goal.
The Mahrez fan group reacted “Excellent timing”. While Musona’s free-kick was top drawer, Mahrez’s goal has been celebrated across the football world as one of the best witnessed on the continent this year.
“Riyad Mahrez scored a brilliant solo goal as AFCON defending champions Algeria were held to a 2-2 draw by Zimbabwe,” wrote Manchester City website correspondent, David Clayton.
“The gifted City playmaker received a long cross-field ball from the left, flicked it over his head with his heel before turning his marker inside out and drilling a low right-foot shot past the Zimbabwean keeper.
“It was the sort of stunning ingenuity we have come to expect from our gifted Algerian.
“The goal put the Desert Foxes 2-0 up at the National Sport Stadium with Montpellier striker Andy Delort opening the scoring four minutes earlier.
“But, Zimbabwe fought back with a goal just before the break through Knowledge Musona and levelled on 82 minutes through Prince Dube to earn a point.”
Some online publications described the goal as a contender for the Puskas award.
The Daily Mail of England also described the moment when Mahrez beat Zimbabwean AFCON campaign debutant, Adam Chicksen, inside the box before firing home past goalkeeper Talbert Shumba.
“Following a failed attack at the visitors’ goal, West Ham star Said Benrahma darts towards with the halfway line before he is quickly surrounded by four Zimbabwe players,” Sam McEvoy of the Daily Mail wrote.
“Having seen Mahrez make a run, on the other side of the field, Benrahma launches the ball across the field towards the Man City star in the hope he can do something with it while being closely marked.
“In a moment of brilliance, Mahrez beautifully plucks the ball from out of the sky by controlling it with his heel, sending it ahead of him and into the Zimbabwe box to set up a chance for himself to score.
“The 29-year-old still has plenty of work to do, though, as he looks to evade his man in the box.
“Showing off his neat footwook, Mahrez then cuts inside on his left foot to shoot before dummying, which leaves his marker on his backside, before cutting back on to his right and firing the ball home.
“His sublime effort left fans in complete awe who took to social media to praise him for his strike.