From Petros Kausiyo in MAPUTO, Mozambique
ZIMBABWE’S Warriors once again fluffed a number of good chances, but this time battled on to avoid a fourth straight defeat as they were held by Mozambique in a World Cup Group G soccer qualifier at the Estadio do Zimpeto here yesterday.
The Warriors — battling to stem a confidence crisis that has seemingly hit them and seen them go on a losing streak that started in Cape Verde in October last year — were in the end left kicking themselves as they had a good chance to beat the Black Mambas but were once again sterile up front.
As was the case in their opening Group G game against Guinea at the National Sports Stadium last weekend, the Warriors lacked the cutting edge with chief striker Knowledge Musona also among the culprits in missing the opportunities with the German-based striker’s finest chance to get a goal in this match being wasted in the 54th minute.
But the best chance of the match for either side fell to Ovidy Karuru in the 42nd minute when the French-based midfielder unbelievably chose to try and pass the ball to Musona from a face-to-face situation with Mambas goalkeeper Pinto.
Musona had done well to beat two markers before threading the ball to Karuru and ran into the box drawing another defender with him.
That presented Karuru with the chance of either placing the ball beyond the advancing keeper or even rounding him but the former Masvingo United and Gunners man who has certainly been off colour in the last assignments lacked the confidence to go for the kill when it mattered most as he in the end tried to pass on the responsibility to Musona and a great chance was lost.
It was great miss that probably defined what has been happening with the Warriors lately. The Warriors bench, which had already stood up in anticipation of a goal, was instead left livid while the hosts and their fans that were growing impatient with their team breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Coach Rahman Gumbo blamed lack of luck for the draw and later told a press conference that “Ovidy let himself and his teammates down with the big miss’’ and the coach quipped that if he had been one of his teammates he would “probably have killed him’’.
But the Warriors interim coach insisted he would take full responsibility for the result and reckoned that his charges should have emerged from Maputo with more than just a point.
“Mozambique started on a high note but we managed to absorb their pressure and in the second half it was our game. At the end of the day a point away from home is still fair,’’ Gumbo said.
But the Warriors coach is certainly not amused by the lack of goals. “If we were not creating the chances then I would have been more worried but we are creating the opportunities, good chances for that matter and I just don’t know why we can’t get that goal . . . we will keep working on our finishing.
“It’s too early to say we are out because there are still four more games to go in the group. I think the defence and the goalkeeper did their bit but the forwards got at least three good chances and just couldn’t get one goal. I think the confidence has always been there among the players but luck has not been on their side,’’ Gumbo said.
Yet it was Mozambique inspired by Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Elias Pelembe Domingue who did much of the probing and were dominant in the first half hour.
Pelembe tasked with a playing-making role responded by carving out some openings for his teammates but the hosts failed to turn that midfield dominance into goals and managed just one shot on target as they opted to come from the flanks.
Zimbabwe’s first attempt on goal only arrived after 10 minutes when Musona shot weakly at goal after latching onto a ball from a set piece. He also struck the side-netting after working his way past Mozambique skipper Paito.
Pelembe Domingue also caught out the Warriors defence with low cross that Liga Muculmana forward Miro failed to connect while Mexer headed just wide as Mozambique ’s early pressure threatened to punish the visitors.
Kapini was also forced to make some crucial saves in the second half including a single-handed save that thwarted substitute Pelembe of local club side Maxaquene from getting a sucker punch six minutes from time.
But it was the Warriors who finished the stronger team in the opening half and a largely anonymous Takesure Chinyama did well to turn and shoot but his attempt flew wide off the post.
Denver Mukamba, who came in for Karuru in the 53rd minute, thought he had found the breakthrough but his effort was ruled off-side by an otherwise impressive Ugandan referee Ali Kalyango.
Although they might have avoided a fourth straight defeat, the Warriors, who are expected to return home tonight know they are still under pressure to secure a win and they will now shift their focus to the 2013 African Cup of Nations first round, second leg assignment against Burundi on Sunday.
At least it was not all gloom after yesterday’s game as they got some respite and motivation with their sponsors Mbada Diamonds announcing through their media liaison officer Tafadzwa Chiremba that they would give them US$25 000 to share for the draw.
The Diamonds mining company had since the opening game against Guinea pledged US$50 000 as winning bonus and Chiremba said they would this week make another announcement after reviewing the situation.
Mozambique: Pinto, Zidan, Chico, Mexer (Pelembe 46th minute), Paito, Whisky (Joao 63rd minute), Simao, Domingue, Miro, Telinho, Jerry (reuben 81st minute)
Zimbabwe: T. Kapini, O. Machapa, O. Bhasera, E. Nyandoro, C. Nyadombo, W. Katsande, O. Karuru (D. Mukamba 53rd minute), T. Nengomasha, T. Chinyama (T. Mandaza minute), K. Musona (K. Billiat 88th minute), V. Nyoni.
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