Zimbabwe needed a penalty shootout to boot out a fighting 10-man Malawi side to reach the semi-finals of the Cosafa Castle Cup at the Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka, Zambia yesterday.
REPORT BY FROM WELLINGTON TONI IN LUSAKA,ZAMBIA
The Warriors will travel to Kitwe this morning where they await the winner of the other quarterfinal between Angola and Lesotho. The semi-final will take place in Ndola on Wednesday.
Monomotapa playmaker Ronald Chitiyo was named the man-of-the match and received a trophy and a Blackberry phone from the sponsors, MTN.
Having led for 76 minutes via a Masimba Mambare opener in the 14th minute, the Warriors went to sleep late in the second half and allowed Malawi to snatch an equaliser, two minutes from full-time when shotstopper Maxwell Nyamupangedengu fumbled into his own net a long ball.
In the shootout, Malawi’s Bongani Kaipa skied the first effort before Gaston Simukonda shot wide and John Lanjesi had his effort saved by Nyamupangedengu
For the Warriors, Devon Chafa, Eric Chipeta and Ocean Mushure converted their spot kicks while Lot Chiwunga had his effort saved by Malawi’s big goalie.
Coach Klaus Dieter-Pagels, in celebrating his first ever win in charge of the Warriors, admitted his side was not up to scratch in the second half, despite carrying a one goal advantage.
“We had chances to make it 2-0 and win the match. We had a brilliant first half and I told my team that if we don’t get a second goal, we will be punished. We had problems in defence, but really Malawi fought very hard in the match with nine men and it’s always difficult to beat such a team,” Pagels said.
Zimbabwe had an early scare in the third minute when veteran Fisher Kondowe ran into the box forcing Nyamupangedengu to clear off the line from a corner.
The Warriors almost hit back immediately, forcing a corner which did not bear any result.
The ever-young Kondowe was back in the hunt two minutes later with a curling free kick that Nyamupangedengu punched away, and Jimmy Zakazaka failed to capitalise on the rebound.
Zimbabwe’s short passing game in 5-4-1 formation did not seem to bear any fruit going forward with Charles Sibanda, playing behind lone hitman Tendai Ndoro.
The short passing game resulted in a loose ball that skipper Mambare bundled home for the Zimbabwe lead after 14 minutes.
Malawi immediately embarked on a mission to get an equaliser, but Felix Chindungwe and Chipeta stood firm at the back. The midfield slowed the tempo of the game with Chafa dictating the pace, hoping to catch the Flames on the break.
A chance presented itself in the 26th minute when Sibanda threaded a pass to Mambare, but the Highlanders man hurried his shot.
At the other end, Nyamupangedengu kept his cool as he saved a stinging Junior Chimodzi shot, after the striker had broken the Zimbabwe defence.
Malawi’s James Sangala, already on a yellow card, brought down Chitiyo, and left for an early shower on the stroke of half-time.
Going into the second half, the Warriors had to capitalise on their one man advantage, but the Flames constantly threatened them on attack, with Simukonda coming close with a left footer in the 59th minute.
The best chance for the Warriors in the second half fell to Sibanda after Ndoro dummied a defender, but the FC Platinum attacking midfielder placed his effort agonisingly wide Malawi fought on and Kaipa forced Nyamupangedengu into a save before the goalkeeper misjudged a long ball from Simukonda and helped it into the nets, just two minutes from time.
Four minutes of added time yielded nothing but the dreaded shootout.