By Grace Chingoma
Botswana ………………………………….(1) 1
(Zimbabwe progress to the last round on 3-1 aggregate)
HARARE- Zimbabwe’s Mighty Warriors were far from convincing, but still saw off the challenge of the battling Zebras in an African Women Championships preliminary round soccer tie at Rufaro yesterday.
Second half goals by defender Ruvimbo Mutyavaviri and Erina Jeke ensured the hosts pulled through to the first round where they now face West African giants Nigeria. The Mighty Warriors went into yesterday’s match carrying a slender 1-0 lead from the first leg in Gaborone two weeks ago.
But a packed Rufaro was stunned into silence when Botswana seized the initiative and took a 21st minute lead through Thuto Ramafifi that set the game for a tense second half.
Vice-President John Nkomo, deputy minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture and Lazarus Dokora and Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development deputy minister Jessie Majome among other government officials were among the capacity crowd.
Mighty Warriors coach Rose Mugadza, who surprisingly made some changes to her regular team, will, on reflection, probably note that Botswana gave them a huge fight as the Zebras gave a much stronger fight than they did in the first leg Gaborone two weeks ago.
Zimbabwe’s vice-captain Talent Mandaza was dropped and her position at right back was filled in by Violet Bepete while Nokuthula “Marhoo” Ndlovu, who missed the first leg through injury, was back in the starting line-up, relegating Sheila Makoto to the bench.
The Batswana side, with a clear game plan, were on the Mighty Warriors’ case from the first whistle and could have scored as early as the sixth minute as the hosts’ defence was caught at sea.
Zimbabwe’s first chance came in the 20th minute when midfielder Marjoury Nyaumwe, who was a shadow of her usual self, benefited from a poor clearance but somehow her long-range shot missed the target.
As if that was not enough, Botswana, in a quick counter-attack, pushed forward and speedy forward Thuto Ramafifi, who caused all sorts of problems for the Mighty Warriors in the first leg, punished the hosts and scored the opening goal.
Mighty Warriors goalkeeper and captain Onai Chingawo was injured as she tried to save the ball and after a five-minute stoppage, she was taken off and replaced by Cyclone keeper Chido Dzingirai.
From then on, the Zebras were firmly in control and the hosts, with a non-performing midfield, were forced to chased shadows until the last five minutes before the breather when Nyaumwe’s effort found no finisher in the box while forward Erina Jeke, who scored the solitary goal in Gaborone, was guilty of reacting slowly and trying to control in the box when she met a good ball from stand-in captain Tsitsi “Figo” Mairosi.
The Mighty Warriors then equalised seven minutes after the break when left back Mutyaviri’s long-range shot beat Botswana goalkeeper Peggy Segokgo all systems out.
It was a beauty from the gangly defender who has a knack of scoring from long-range. The match dragged on with the visitors, led by captain Bonang “Bebeto” Otlhagile, firmly in control of the proceedings as they sought for another goal which could have sent them through to the next round.
The Mighty Warriors’ chances were few and far between and substitute Rutendo “Madzimai” Makore failed to score after Violet Bepete’s effort had troubled the keeper.
Zimbabwe goalkeeper Dzingirai, full of composure, was also summoned to save a dangerous free-kick as the Zebras camped inside the hosts’ area. In the 78th minute, Mighty Warriors striker Jeke also fluffed another chance after a mix-up between the Zebras defenders.
However, Jeke made amends seven minutes later when she benefited from a delivery from the hardworking Mairosi, who was fighting a lone battle in the middle of the park, and the striker fired the ball home to score the winner for the Mighty Warriors and sending a packed Rufaro into a frenzy.
It was all the team needed to wrap-up the match and probably forget a nightmarish afternoon where the Mighty Warriors produced their worst performance since their recent revival.
However, coach Mugadza felt her charges did well to progress to the last qualifying round of the women’s edition of the continental competition and said there is no bad result in football.
“We didn’t play well in the first half but I am happy with the team’s performance. The most important thing is to win a match whether we played well or badly.
“I give my players instructions at training and if they don’t implement them on the pitch, it is not my fault as I cannot go on and play,” said Mugadza.
Zebras coach Gaoletmoo “Ronaldo” Nkutliwasang hailed her team’s performance and said she would retain the same team for future commitments.
“I think we had a good game but our goalkeeper was not cutting out crosses and this cost us at the end of the day. I am impressed with my team’s performance and I am not a disappointed person.
“I have to keep the same team and regularly play friendly matches because I believe the team has lot of potential,” said Nkutliwasang.
Onai Chingawo (Chido Dzingirai 26th minute), Patience Mujuru, Danai Bhobho, Ruvimbo Mutyavaviri, Violet Bepete, Emmaculate Msipa(Talent Mandaza 80th minute), Marjoury Nyaumwe, Tsitsi Mairosi, Nokuthula Ndlovu, Rudo Neshamba(Rutendo Makore 60th minute), Erina Jeke.
Peggy Segokgo, Bonang Otlhagile, Kgomotso Molefe, Tshiamo Ramaeba, Golebaone Selebatso, Tlamelo Motlhale, Noni Mahlobe (Lebegang Setereke 66th minute), Thuso Lesaane, Amagalang Moali, Nondi Mahlasela, Thuto Ramafifi.