Petros Kausiyo in NDOLA, Zambia
Zimbabwe………………. (2 ) 2
Lesotho…………………. (1) 1
Rangy striker Tendai Ndoro fired a first half brace as Zimbabwe’s Warriors huffed and puffed their way into the Cosafa Cup final after edging spirited Lesotho in a dull semi-final at the Levy Mwanawasa stadium here last night.
Despite struggling with their game against the Crocodlies, the Warriors who fought their way from a goal down stayed on course for a successful defence of their title. The Warriors are now seeking to extend their record as the team with the most Cosafa titles to five.
Yet the champions were left stunned after Lesotho stole a third minute lead before Ndoro struck back inside 10 minutes for his first international goals for his country.
The Warriors paid the price for their lethargic start to the game when they were found wanting from a standard situation as Lesotho got their goal through striker Mofolo Motlalepula.
What seemed a routine attack down the right channel resulted in a low ball being swung in and with neither Felix Chindungwe nor Prosper Matizanadzo picking him, the Crocodiles striker had enough space to tap the ball home.
But Ndoro brought Zimbabwe level in the 14th minute when he received a pass from right back Eric Chipeta inside the box, turned his man and fired a powerful angled shot that squeezed its way between Lesotho goalkeeper Phasumane Kholoue and his near post.
Ndoro, later voted the Man of the Match – the second time that the Warriors had a player winning that accolade – then fired what proved the winner in the 24th minute. Ronald Chitiyo won the Man of the Match against Malawi.
In grabbing his second of the night, Ndoro in typical predatory fashion got to the end of another Chipeta delivery from the right to bury his effort home.
That move had been started by Devon Chafa deep inside the Lesotho half with the Dynamos midfielder spreading the ball wide to his right back and the Hwange defender obliged by sending a clever ball into the direction of Charles Sibanda who in turn sold a dummy to two Lesotho defenders.
Ndoro who was a handful for the Crocodiles centre back partnership of skipper Moitheri Ntobo and Masualle Thabo with his power play could have sealed a memorable hat-trick but he wasted three more good chances either side of the break.
But the Warriors, jittery in defence and careless in midfield somehow still hung on to secure their place in Saturday’s final at the same venue.
Warriors coach Klaus Dieter Pagels made just one change to the side which started the quarter-final showdown against Malawi with Matizanadzo coming in for the injured Hardlife Zvirekwi.
This forced Pagels to switch Chipeta to the right side of defence while Matizanadzo partnered Chindungwe in the centre.
Chipeta was saved from some blushes in the 30th minute when his miscued clearance fell onto the lath of Moletsane Bushy but goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupanedengu rushed out of his line to block the effort.
Nyamupanedengu then almost turned what seemed a harmless looking ball into his own net in the second period as Lesotho fought hard to try and find an equaliser.
Lesotho coach Leslie Notsie made two changes to the side that overcame Angola 5-4 on penalties in the quarter-finals after the two teams had fought a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
Notsie brought back captain Ntobo who recovered from injury and Jeremia Kamela who had been suspended for picking two yellow cards in the group games.
The Crocodlies have been the tournament’s surprise packages and last night their coach felt they had bowed out in grace after pushing the Warriors to sweat for their victory.
“I am proud of my boys, Zimbabwe are a strong team but I think tonight lapses in concentration worked against us. We also gave Zimbabwe too much room and they used that space to get their goals,’’ Notsie said.
Pagels admitted that his side had struggled with their game and revealed that he was only happy with the result and not the overall showing.
The tall German coach whose last assignment in charge of the Warriors will now be the Cosafa final blamed the decision by the Zimbabwe football chiefs to limit his selection to a maximum of two players from each club arguing that such a move worked heavily against his squad.
Pagels, just like his assistant Lloyd Mutasa on Tuesday also questioned the coaching methods at the Premiership clubs and reckoned that the layers he brought with him here are not in the best of conditions physically.
“My selection is based on two players per club and nowhere in the world do you see a national team that has such limits on selection.
Our clubs in Zimbabwe also need to improve on their training methods so that our players can compete better in such tournaments.
“I am also not happy with the performance. We played very badly especially in defence but what can you do when your selection is limited.
“We have very good defenders at Dynamos but I cannot use them because I had already picked two other players (Ocean Mushure and Chafa),’’ Pagels said.
The coach was also not amused by the performances of the midfield pair of captain Masimba Mambare and Chafa whom he said often strayed away from their defensive duties.
“Masimba and Devon wanted to both attack at the same time and they were abandoning their defensive duties.
“Now we just have to continue to try and improve every time but being in the final is an achievement because there are some teams which are in better shape in this competition. Teams like Namibia, Zambia and South Africa are in good condition and we could be in trouble in the final and winning the cup will not be easy but we will try,’’ Pagels said.
Zimbabwe: M. Nyamupanedengu, E. Chipeta, O. Mushure, P. Matizanadzo, F. Chindungwe, D. Chafa, R. Chitiyo (L. Chibwiro 71st minute), M. Mambare, T. Ndoro, C. Sibanda, S. Songani (N. Alifandika 58th minute).
Lesotho: P. Kholuoe, M. Ralekoti, M. Motlalepula (K. Tsoanelo 48th minute) , M. Ntobo, T. Thapelo, K. Moleko, M. Thabo, M. Bushy (P. Mabuti 74th minute), L. Marabe ( L. Ramabale 38th minute) J. Kamela, N. Lerotholi. The Herald