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Zimbabwe dump Lesotho to set up clash with Zambia in COSAFA Final

By Petros Kausiyo in SUN CITY, South Africa

Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 4
Lesotho . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 3

Knox Mutizwa underlined the attacking riches within the Warriors arsenal at this COSAFA Castle Cup with a sensational hat-trick, on a night he could have even have grabbed half-a-dozen goals at the Moruleng Stadium, as Zimbabwe set up another dream final against old enemies Zambia.

Zimbabwe's Knox Mutizwa tries to keep the ball away from Lesotho's Basia Makepa
Zimbabwe’s Knox Mutizwa tries to keep the ball away from Lesotho’s Basia Makepa

The Warriors and Chipolopolo, with four titles each, will now battle at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Sunday with either side seeking to set a new record of tournament wins.

Zambia were convincing 4-2 winners over guest nation Tanzania in an earlier semi-final at the same venue.

The two rivals last met in the 2013 final in Ndola when the Warriors were then under the guidance of German coach Klaus Dieter Pagels with the Zambians winning on home soil to make up for a loss at the hands of Zimbabwe at Rufaro in the final in 2009.

That had been coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s last competitive game in charge of the Warriors until he returned to the COSAFA Castle Cup this year on a mission to restore the country’s battered pride in this tournament.

The manner his charges conceded goals last night, however, left Chidzambwa a disappointed man.

“I am not happy with the way we went to sleep each time we scored a goal. I think we could have avoided those goals but we also let some complacency creep in and if we are to win this Cup, we have to work really hard especially in our defending,’’ he said.

“Lesotho started very well and we were lucky to get an early goal and as the game progressed they came back and we went to sleep.

“We spoke to the players at half-time and we started the second half strongly and scored those two goals then we went to sleep again and they got their second goal and after scoring the fourth we went to sleep again.’’

But, for Mutizwa, the semi-final will be a match he will remember for a long time after grabbing his first hat-trick in his country’s colours.

Mutizwa, voted the-man-of-the-match, became the second highest scorer in this year’s edition after taking his tally to four, and two behind his inspirational captain Ovidy Karuru who has six.

After rising from the bench to head home the winner in the 2-1 quarter-final victory over Swaziland, Mutizwa was rewarded with a starting place and scored in the 18th, 50th and 82nd minutes.

Talent Chawapiwa grabbed Zimbabwe‘s other goal just after the hour mark while the Crocodiles fought back via goals from substitutes Samuel Ketsekile (41st minute), Mabuti Potloane after 79 minutes and an injury-time penalty by Tsoanelo Koetle.

But the Warriors, who needed 317 minutes of action to concede a goal here, were not convincing at the back while goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya, surprisingly preferred ahead of George Chigova, appeared nervy.

“We didn’t want to take gamble with George because he has a yellow card from the last game and that is why we kept him on the bench. If anything had happened and he picked another yellow he would have been out of the final,’’ Chidzambwa said.

There were chances galore for the Warriors but their conversion did not match their penetration qualities. Maybe the number of changes made appeared to affect them and, for long periods in the game, Karuru, who has shown his predatory instincts at this tournament and has been the outstanding player of the tourney, was restricted to a role deeper in midfield.

It meant that the Warriors lacked the spark, and dangerous off-the-ball running into the box from their skipper which had been sending fear into the opponents at this tournament, and after the Crocodiles, started the game as the better team, there were even fears that the impossible could happen and the best team at this tournament could crash at the semi-finals.

But it’s a measure of a good team when, even against the run, it finds a way to throw the first decisive punch, which the Warriors did last night when they took the lead after the ball, swung in from a corner, floated across the Lesotho defence and Mutizwa made the right connection with his leg to turn it home.

The striker was given an even better chance to double the lead, after some good work by the Warriors presented him with the opportunity to provide the finishing touch but, with the ‘keeper at his mercy, Mutizwa directed his effort wide.

Given Lesotho didn’t carry the kind of pressure that the Warriors had and, having only played one game, were fresher compared to their opponents, such wasted chances had the danger of haunting Chidzambwa’s men.

And that happened just before the break when their defence went to sleep and they were punished with the Crocodiles finding the equaliser.

Crucially, with Karuru providing excellent leadership, the Warriors — once again backed by a passionate crowd, didn’t drop their heads and exchanged notes on the field, with their skipper barking instructions, before trooping off to their dressing room for the break.

And, after the interval, the game should have been settled long before Lesotho scored a third goal, with time running out, to get a little window of hope to force the match into a penalty shoot-out lottery.

Fortunately, the Warriors didn’t give their opponents another chance and will now take on Zambia on Sunday in the final.

Teams:

Zimbabwe: Takabva Mawaya, Eric Chipeta, Honest Moyo, Liberty Chakoroma, Jimmy Tigere, Gerald Takwara, Innocent Mucheneka (Raphael Manuvire 47th min), Talent Chawapiwa (Michelle Katsvairo 75th min), Ovidy Karuru, Knox Mutizwa, Ocean Mushure

Lesotho: Likhano Mputhi, Mafa Moremoholo, Bokang Sello, Kefoue Mahula, Kopano Tseka, Hlompo Kalake (Mabuti Potloane 61st min), Thapelo Tale (Samuel Ketsekile 31st min), Tsoanelo Koetle, Jane Ntso, Tumelo Khutlang, Tapelo Mokhehle. The Herald

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