Petros Kausiyo in KITWE, Zambia
Zimbabwe’s hopes of stretching their Cosafa Cup record to five titles ended in agony when the Warriors were outfoxed by old rivals Zambia in a lively final at the Levy Mwanawasa stadium here yesterday.
The Warriors arrived in Zambia for the 2013 edition of the Cosafa tournament as the defending champions and record four time winners.
But after staggering their way into the final, the Warriors came unstuck against a tactically and technically superior Chipolopolo side that was spurred on a by a near capacity crowd at the 40 000 seater stadium.
Just like they did in the semi-final tie against Lesotho the Warriors got off to a poor start and were soon punished for their lack of concentration when Zambian striker Bornwell Mwape found the target off a free-kick after just three minutes.
The hosts then sealed their victory at the death when substitute Kabaso Chongo curled another free-kick home. Zimbabwe had been guilty of some erratic defending in this tournament especially from set pieces and Zambia seemed to have done their homework on Klaus Dieter Pagels’ men as they kept exposing the visitors defensive frailties from those situations.
Black Mambas striker Last Chibwiro, surprisingly handed a start ahead of Monomotapa winger Ronald Chitiyo on the right flank clumsily hacked down Chipolopolo left back Fackson Kapumbu and Mwape, scorer of a brace when Zambia beat Zimbabwe 2-0 in a friendly in Lusaka in April, stepped up to take the free-kick.
The Nchanga Rangers forward then curled his effort which jittery Warriors goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupanendengu seemed to have read well only to be deceived by a clever dummy by Mukuka Mulenga.
Winger Mulenga later voted the Cosafa Cup Player of the tournament was at the hub of most of his team’s moves and troubled the Warriors defenders all afternoon.
Just after Seychelles referee Bernard Camille had signalled for four minutes of his optional time, the Warriors who played a better game and relied on counter raids in the second half thought they could force the game into extra time as they kept pouring forward in numbers in search of an equaliser.
But again Zimbabwe’s weakest point remained their defending and when they won another free-kick on the left channel deep inside in the Warriors half, the hosts gladly took advantage .
Chongo who had come on for Mwape in the 62nd minute was precise with his set piece beating a hesitant Nyamupanedengu and his static defence to ensure Zambia leveled Zimbabwe’s record of four Cosafa tiles.
Chipolopolo are yet to lose a match at Levy Mwanawasa and they continued with that record with a strong and physical approach to the game where they threatened to overrun the Warriors in the opening half.
Zimbabwe’s first real attack only arrived after 12 minutes when Ndoro deftly sent Chibwiro charging down on the right flank but the Black Mambas man was guilty of some wayward shooting and drove his effort over with Zambian goalkeeper Danny Munyau.
The Warriors, to their credit shook off their jittery start and upped their act in the second half, creating a number of opportunities but they lacked the cutting edge with Chicken Inn forward Tendai Ndoro, Ocean Mushure, Chibwiro and Chitiyo coming close but failing to find their range.
The visitors either missed the chances that came their way or found Munyau, named the goalkeeper of the tournament, a stumbling block.
Pagels who expressed disappointment with his team’s performance against Lesotho said he had been satisfied with the huge improvement in their showing but reckoned the Warriors could have won the game had they concerted their chances.
The disappointing German coach who was presiding over his last assignment before heading back to his home was also not amused by Camille’s decision to turn down their penalty appeals for a handball late on arguing that it could have forced a dramatic end to the game.
“I am not happy with the result, I think we deserved to win because in my opinion we had about 75 to 77 percent of possession and we created a lot of chances. I was not happy with the referee, he was close to the action but still doesn’t give a penalty when the defender handles. Anyway that won’t change the result now and I will not blame anyone.
“Today we came back to our short passing one touch game and we did tit well, our defenders were calm when they got the ball but we didn’t take our chances,’’ Pagels said.
The Warriors coach also defended his team selection insisting that he had “picked the best under the circumstances”. Pagels said he had also been happy to see his players try to match the Zambians’ physical game.
“In our previous games we struggled to last the game but today therewas a change and not in the condition but in the spirit, the players fought hard,’’ Pagels said.
Chipolopolo coach Herve Renard paid tribute to the Warriors for their determination but said they had long targeted the Cosafa Cup and were happy to achieve their goal.
The Frenchman also revealed that Zambia would now set their sights on the African Nations Championships in which they face Botswana in the first round and could meet Zimbabwe in the second and final qualifier should the Warriors prevail over Mauritius.
“Congratulations to the Zimbabwe team for a good fight but the most important thing in football is the result. We were not fluid enough today maybe the game against South Africa was too hard to digest for my players. We lost the Cosafa final in 2009 then went to the Nations Cup and won it in 2012, now we must try to target the CHAN ,’’ said Renard.
D. Munyau, J. Chisenga, . Munthali, K. Ntinga, S. Kalume (M. Chaila 74th min, F. Kapumbu, B. Chama, M. Mulenga, F. Mbewe, A. Ng’onga (M. Phiri 82nd min), B. Mwape (K. Chongo).
M. Nyamupanedengu, H. Zvirekwi , O. Mushure, E. Chipeta, F. Chindungwe, D. Chafa, L. Chibwiro . (R. Chitiyo 60th min), M. Mambare, T. Ndoro (S. Sithole 77th min), C. Sibanda (A. Sadiki 60th min), N. Guyo. The Sunday Mail