Zimbabwe progress on a 2-0 goal aggregate
By Brian Nkiwane in Moroni, Comoros
Forget the shambolic preparations, seething temperatures, long trip on match day, boycotts by coaches, the Warriors progressed to the next round of the African Championships (Chan) after playing to a goalless draw against Comoros at the Stade de Moroni yesterday.
Thanks to two goals from Evans Rusike and Marshal Mudehwe in the first leg in Harare two weeks ago, Pasuwa’s men will meet Lesotho who prevailed over Botswana courtesy of the away goal rule.
The two teams played a goalless draw in the first leg in Maseru, but yesterday’s one all draw saw Lesotho advance to the next round.
In a post-match interview, Pasuwa described his players as battle-hardened: “I never thought the boys would run throughout the match, considering the high temperatures that we have here. However, I am happy for the boys who have proved to be ready for battle despite all the obstacles that we faced during our preparations”.
The former Dynamos gaffer said the players did very well, considering that the team had travelled yesterday morning, a few hours before kickoff.
“Now that we are going to face tougher opponents, we need to put our house in order and do proper preparations,” Pasuwa said.
The match started on a high tempo with the host looking for an early goal. However, after 10 minutes the Warriors took control of the game and resorted to passing football, especially in the middle of the park, with skipper Danny “Deco” Phiri dictating the moves.
The first opportunity to put the Warriors ahead fell on Emmanuel Mandiranga whose effort went off target. Chicken Inn’s Edmore Chirambadare who was making his Warriors debut also had a chance to thrust the Zimbabweans in front on the 20th minute after connecting a Mcgini Sibanda flicked ball, but the striker shot over the bar.
Two minutes later, Sibanda got at the end of a Blessing Moyo through pass, but he shot straight into the arms of the already advancing Comoros goalkeeper Said Halifa. The Warriors were awarded a free kick just outside the Comoros penalty box in the 36th minute but the resultant effort by Phiri went over the bar.
The only time that Comoros threatened the Warriors goal area was in the 38th minute when Phiri brought down Ali Ahmed which resulted in a free kick. However, Warriors goalkeeper Donavan Bernard dealt with the free kick.
Within first half added time, a Warriors move involving Phiri, Sibanda and Chirambadare tore apart the Comoros defence, but again Chirambadare shot wide.
After the breather, the hosts came back a changed side altogether, threatening to overrun their opponents. Their intention to take the match from their opponents was evident as early as the second minute of resumption when Ahmed shot way over Donavan’s crossbar.
They were back again to knock on Donavan’s goal area, this time from a promising free kick just outside the penalty box, but again they found the pint-sized How Mine goal keeper in a no-nonsense mood. The Warriors regrouped and picked up themselves from that pressure, with Mandiranga beating three defenders in the 52nd minute but could not pull the trigger in the penalty box until Comoros defenders recovered and dispossessed him.
The visitors continued to pile pressure and were awarded another free kick on the edge of the Comoros penalty box, but again the effort went way over the bar.
Sensing danger, Comoros coach Mohamed Abderamane Chamite responded by pulling out Idrisse Abdallah for Issilah Said whose introduction changed the complexion of the game. Sensing some positives from his substitution, the coach took no time to introduce another substitute, this time Said Anfane Boura for Chaduli Mradabi.
Pasuwa was not to be outdone as he also responded by pulling out Carlos Rusere for Marlvin Gaki.
Just after making the change, Phiri dispossessed a Comoros defender before charging towards goal but his square ball found no taker with the goalkeeper off-position. And the Warriors were on the road to the Chan finals.