Zimbabwe wasted a good opportunity to assume total control of Group G when they allowed Congo to come back and rescue a point during yesterday’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier.
The Warriors are now on four points in the group from two matches and remain in first place only on goal difference ahead of second-placed Democratic Republic of Congo, who also drew 1-1 away to Liberia last night.
Had they won yesterday’s match, Zimbabwe would have gone two points clear at the top of the group with four more rounds of action to play.
Congo are in third place with only a single point while Liberia anchor the group also on one point.
The Warriors had taken a first half lead through Khama Billiat at the Stade Alphonse Massamba Debat in Brazzaville.
Sunday Chidzambwa’s side went on to create a number of good chances but failed to increase their tally.
In the second half, it was a completely different encounter as the Red Devils took the game to the Warriors and duly equalised five minutes after the break through their Turkey-based star forward Thievy Bifouma.
After some nervy opening exchanges, the Warriors opened the scoring in the 22nd minute following a good team move.
Billiat started the move when he ran at pace at the Congo defence before finding Evans Rusike with a neat through ball.
Rusike did well to release captain Knowledge Musona, who had made a dart into the right side of the Red Devils’ box.
Billiat had continued with his run and was at hand to meet Musona’s cut-back before scoring with a rising finish that beat the home side’s goalkeeper Chnasel Massa from point blank range.
After the goal, the Warriors were all over the Red Devils but failed to turn that dominance into goals.
Just before the half hour mark, Musona should have made it 0-2 but missed a good chance when the warrior shad caught Congo on the break.
Once again it was Billiat at the heart of the move when he won possession during a Congo shot corner kick that went horribly wrong.
The Kaizer Chiefs forward combined with Kuda Mahachi, who in turn released Rusike on the right side.
The Red Devils were expecting an offside flag which did not come and Rusike sent in a cross for the unmarked onrushing Musona.
The Anderlecht forward’s first-time shot was saved by Massa.
The ricochet fell kindly for the Warriors captain but he inexplicably directed his second effort wide with Massa only to beat.
It proved to be a costly mistake as in the second half, Congo were a completely different team swarming the Warriors goal at ease in search of an equaliser.
The home side was duly rewarded in the 50th minute when Bifouma got to the end of a beautiful through ball from Merveil Ndockyt inside the box.
Bifouma did well to shield the ball away from Zimbabwe defenders before firing in a low shot past goalkeeper George Chigova.
Moments later, Junior Makiese came close to giving Congo the lead but his curling shot from the edge of the box went over the bar with Chigova scrambling.
At that stage, the Red Devils were now all over the Warriors with Bifouma causing all sorts of problems for the visitors.
As pressure increased on the Warriors backline, Makiese went down inside the box following a challenge from Alec Mudimu.
Luckily for the visitors, South African referee Victor Gomes waved play on much to the disappointment of the home side’s fans.
In a rare attack in the second period, Musona almost restored the Warriors’ lead when he got to the end of a cross from Billiat but his shot was again saved by Massa.
Congo: Chansel Massa, Dimitri Bissiki, Garcia Nkoura, Marvin Baudry (Varel Rozan 20m), Fernard Mayembo, Francoeur Kibamba, Merveil Ndockyt, Thievy Bifouma, Delarge Dzon, Junior Makiese, Carof Bakoua (Junior Loussoukou)
Zimbabwe: George Chigova, Teenage Hadebe, Eric Chipeta, Alec Mudimu, Devine Lunga, Marshall Munetsi, Danny Phiri, Khama Billiat (Talent Chawapiwa 85m), Kuda Mahachi (Tafadzwa Kutinyu 62m), Knowledge Musona. Daily News.