Zimbabwe . . . . . . (0) 0
Mali . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 1
ZIMBABWE national men’s soccer team, the Warriors’ hopes of staying longer at the ongoing Africa Championships (Chan) in Rwanda suffered a fatal blow yesterday as they lost their second match to Mali at Rubavu’s Umganda Stadium.
Once again, the Warriors conceded a solitary goal which confirmed their exit from the competition having been beaten by a similar margin by Zambia in their group D opening match last Tuesday.
The Warriors failed to replicate the form that saw them storm into the semifinals of the same competition that was held in South Africa in 2014.
Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa had made five changes to the team that lost to Zambia in their opening match.
Tatenda Mukuruva was in goals, taking over from Donavan Bernard while Stephen Makatuka started in place of Elisha Muroiwa, who was injured in the match against Zambia. Rodrick Mutuma replaced Francesco Zekumbawira while in the middle Nqobizitha Masuku and Marshal Mudewe came in for Gerald Takwara and Knox Mutizwa.
Mali midfielder Moussa Sissoko took advantage of sloppy defending by the Warriors to stab the ball home in the 82nd minute.
It is now clear that the Warriors will catch their next flight back home soon after playing their final Group D dead rubber against Uganda on Tuesday.
After two games Zimbabwe remain with no point, while Mali has already moved to four points after their 2-2 draw with Uganda in the opening match.
Zambia beat Uganda 1-0 whom they were playing in a late kick off yesterday, to move to six points and they are assured of going to the next round.
The warriors went into yesterday’s match needing victory at all costs to stay in the tournament. but all their hopes went up in smoke.
Zimbabwe’s biggest undoing was their failure to control the ball in the Mali box which they invaded on numerous occasions.
Zimbabwe first threatened the Mali goal when Ocean Mushure’s free kick whistled wide of Djigui Diarra’s goal post.
The Warriors also got another chance to score when Marshal Mudewe, Mutuma and Ronald Chitiyo exchanged passes invading the Mali penalty area, but Mudewe’s shot at goal was weak.
Dribbling wizard, Edmore Chirambadare took the responsibility to put Zimbabwe ahead when he danced past four Mali defenders, but took time to pull the trigger in the box, allowing Mali defenders to recover and dispossess him.
From that incident, Mali tried to catch Zimbabwe on a counter attack, but Sekou Koita shot wide.
In the 27th minute, Mutuma watched in disbelief as his diving header hit the upright post before the ball trickled out of play.
After the breather, Zimbabwe came back pumped up, but missed chance after chance, with Chirambadare, Mudewe and Mutuma dismally failing to control the ball.
Zimbabwe almost took the lead in the 65th minute when Mudewe worked his magic again on the right flank, only for his powerful shot to be punched back into play. But the Warriors were not finished. The resultant ball fell on the feet of the advancing Chirambadare and he opened fire, but unfortunately, the shot went wide once again.
Second half substitute William Manondo had the best chance of the day after Mudewe beat his marker on the right and picked the unmarked Manondo. Unfortunately Manondo took time to shoot, allowing the Mali goalkeeper to advance and collect the ball.
Mali also had their fair share of opportunities and got into Mukuruva’s goal area several times, but their strikers took turns to waste the chances.
It was in the 82nd minute that Mali sunk the Warriors’ hearts.
Mali were awarded a free kick just outside Mukuruva’s goal following an infringement on their player.
Sissoko took advantage of poor communication on the part of the Warriors defence to stab home the match winner from a well-taken free kick.