POLOKWANE — Zimbabwe equalised at the death of injury time, then Khama Billiat’s added-time penalty and goal earned the Warriors the 2018 Cosafa Cup with a 4-2 win in yesterday’s intensely-fought football final against Zambia at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.
Times Live/Staff Reporter
Zimbabwe (1) 2
(Zimbabwe won 4-2 after extra time)
The final, deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of normal time, will go down as easily the best seen in the 18 editions of the Cosafa Cup.
Red-hot Sweden-based rising star Tinotenda Kadewere put Zimbabwe ahead in the fourth minute, with Zambia equalising almost immediately in the eighth through Zesco United’s highly-rated forward Lazarus Kambole.
Kambole put Zambia 2-1 up in the 50th minute. Chipolopolo appeared set for victory before Zimbabwe’s equaliser by Kadewere three minutes into added time, moments after Zambia hit the woodwork, sent the game into an extra half-hour.
Khama Billiat’s 100th-minute penalty, then 116th-minute strike earned Zimbabwe victory.
This pulsating final was confirmation of these two teams as Southern Africa’s football powerhouses.
Holders Zimbabwe, who had brought a full-strength team to Cosafa, extended their record from five to six tournament victories, retaining their 2017 title.
Zambia remained joint-second with South Africa on four Cosafa Cup victories.
It is also a fourth tournament win for Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa, extending his record as the most successful coach in Cosafa Cup history, and he remains unbeaten after 18 matches in the Southern African championship.
Zimbabwe took the lead in a thrilling opening 10 minutes through a poor defensive error by Zambia centre-back Martin Sikaonga, whose attempted pass across the front of his own area went straight to Kadewere.
The Warriors forward ran through and easily scored past goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata to put Zimbabwe ahead.
Zambia equalised when left-winger Kelvin Mubanga’s angled pass was played into the path of a well-timed run by Kambole splitting the central defenders, who rounded goalkeeper George Chigova to finish.
Five minutes into the second half, Zambia scored their second goal through a beautifully worked movement.
Nsabata’s long ball was finely controlled by Kambole on the left touchline, who played inside to Clatous Chama, then made the run to receive the return pass. The Zesco star burst free into the area and finished low past Chigova.
In a dramatic finish to normal time, at one end, with Zimbabwe pushing numbers forward, Zambia had the chance to wrap up the game two minutes into added time when Chama’s pass put substitute Kampamba through to hit the upright.
The ball was immediately worked to the other end, where Billiat headed into the path of Kadewere to pull back an equaliser at the death.
In the 98th minute, Billiat was pushed off the ball by Ronald Kampamba, and referee Helder de Carvalho pointed to the spot. The little Mamelodi Sundowns forward stepped up and slotted to the right of Nsabata.
Then Billiat capped his strong finish to the game scoring Zimbabwe’s fourth.
Kadewere, who repaid the coach’s trust with two crucial goals, was over the moon after winning his first silverware with the national team.
“We definitely knew it was going to be a tough game, but we told ourselves to be 100% focused. We started well at the beginning of the game but as time went on we went down a bit and conceded two silly goals, but we kept on going and worked hard because we really needed the result,” he said.
“We managed to score in the 90th minute and eventually we got the victory in extra time, which was important for us.”
He added: It (the Cosafa Cup) is really important for me and I’m really happy that I was part of the team that won the cup and managed to contribute in the final. That’s something that will be in my books forever.”
Zambia: T Nsabata, S Mayembe, Z Tembo, B Mutale, M Sikaonga, F Sakala, J Chirwa, J Ching’andu (N Sunzu 85’), C Chama,K Mubanga (C Sikombe 59’), L Kambole (R Kampamba 88’)
Zimbabwe: G Chigova, J Mukombwe, A Mudimu, K Moyo, D Lunga, M Munetsi (R Hachiro 74’), L Kutinyu, T Chawapiwa (L Mavunga 81’), K Billiat, T Dzvukamanja (E Rusike 64’), T Kadewere