DR Congo…(0) 1
Zimbabwe ………(1) 2
A 10-man Warriors side produced one of the biggest upsets in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nation qualifiers when they beat Africa’s third ranked team, the Democratic Republic of Congo in the first of the back to back qualifiers in front of a packed Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa yesterday.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Bloemfontein Celtic’s Ronald Pfumbidzai marked his return to the national team with a beautifully volleyed goal in the first half before captain Knowledge Musona doubled the scoreline midway through the second half to help the team to a historic win.
Musona became the joint top scorer in the current Afcon qualification round with four goals from three matches but he will miss Tuesday’s return match after he was sent off for a second bookable offence 15 minutes from time.
The hosts got a consolation goal from substitute English championship side Aston Villa star striker Yannick Bolasie in injury time.
Zimbabwe became the first team to beat the DRC at home in four years, since they lost 2 – 1 to Ivory Coast back in 2014.
Heavy favourites to win Group G, the DRC were hugely expected to make light work of Zimbabwe as they were showcasing some of the best talent in African football but the Sunday Chidzambga’s men had other ideas.
The victory put Zimbabwe in good stead for qualification to the Cameroon finals as they lead the group with seven points from three matches.
Should Zimbabwe complete a double over the DRC in Tuesday night’s encounter they will put one foot at the finals.
At the packed Kinshasa stadium it was the Warriors who had the initial sniff of a goal with Knox Mutizwa letting fly a snap shot that sailed over the bar following a counter attack in the first 10 minutes.
George Chigova then made an acrobatic save to tip over Bakambu’s goal bound header moments later.
Pfumbidzai then stunned the home crowd into silence with a snap shot on the turn from inside the box, latching on to a loose ball after the hosts failed to clear a Khama Billiat freekick.
Billiat, easily the best player on the night made DRC goalkeeper Anthony Mossi work with a stinging freekick from 30 yards out.
The ball was headed for the left side bottom corner but Mossi stretched low to turn it round the post for a corner kick
Bakambu had a golden opportunity to bring the hosts back into the match 10 minutes before the break but he produced a ghastly miss with just Chigova to beat.
The DRC had the luxury to put Bolasie on the bench but the move backfired.
Bolasie was introduced early in the second half to increase the hosts’ attacking impetus.
But the central Africa giants still created very little in terms of goal scoring opportunities.
It was the Warriors who found the target with the Anderlecht man Musona doubling the scores in the 69th minute.
The DRC were denied four minutes later with a Chancel Bemba header from close range crashing off the cross bar before being cleared into safety.
Musona was red carded for a second bookable offence after hacking down Issam Mpeko in the 75th minute.
Zimbabwe had to play a frenetic last 15 minutes one man short.
Bakambu had another chance late in the match but the hurried his shot into the stands.
There was a chance for Bolasie to earn a point for the hosts, fashioning an opportunity out of nothing but it fizzed past the upright post.
Bolasie then grabbed the consolation for the DRC deep into injury time.
DRC: A. Mossi, C. Mbemba, I. Mpeko, M. Tisserand, A. Chadrack, F. Ngoma, J. Botaka (Y Bolasie 53’), C. Luvindama, C. Bakambu, G. Kakuta, A. Masuaku.
Zimbabwe: G. Chigova, T. Darikwa, R. Pfumbidzai, T. Hadebe, A. Mudimu, D. Phiri, M. Nakamba (M Munetsi 58’), T. Kutinyu, K. Musona, K. Billiat, K. Mutizwa (T Dzvukamanja 72′).