By Tadious Manyepo
Two Zimbabwean international footballers Tendayi Darikwa and Andy Rinomhota on Saturday gave a good account of themselves in the third round of the famous FA Cup for their English Championship clubs Nottingham Forest and Reading respectively albeit in losing cause against giants Chelsea and Manchester United.
Darikwa’s Forest lost 0-2 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, courtesy of Alvaro Morata’s brace with Rinomhota’s Reading losing by an identical scoreline to Manchester United at Old Trafford through goals in each half by Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku.
Darikwa was in phenomenal form as he defended resolutely and asked Chelsea a lot of difficult questions at the back.
The Warriors right-back played the entire match and was unfortunate to end the game on the losing end given the form he was in. Darikwa missed the last African Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia in Monrovia last November due to suspension after accumulating two yellow cards.
In his absence, Marshal Munetsi moved from midfield to right-back and Zimbabwe lost the match 1-2.
Though the Warriors are still top of Group G with a single match before the campaign ends, they will have a lot of work to do as they seek to avoid defeat against Congo Brazzaville on March 22 in Harare in-order for them to qualify for this year’s AFCON finals.
Darikwa, barring injuries, will likely reclaim his place in the team as the Warriors seek to claim two of the group spots and qualify for the AFCON finals scheduled for June 15 to July 13 at a venue yet to be determined.
While Darikwa was impressive for Forest in their FA Cup third round tie against Chelsea, Rinomhota was also outstanding for Reading and actually took the man-of-the-match gong despite ending the tie against the mighty Manchester United on the losing side at the Theatre of Dreams.
Though his team lost, it was the way in which the 21-year-old Rinomhota stamped his authority in midfield that left the Old Trafford faithful in awe. The youngster combined well with Liam Kelly and Garath McCleary in the middle of the park, helping narrowing passing angles for the tactically superior Manchester United midfield which was well oiled by fringe Andreas Pereira.
Though the 1,75m tall midfielder is yet to feature for the Warriors, he could become the rock coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa can build his team around.
While other lower-tier clubs were over the weekend “fried” by their Premiership counterparts, Reading made sure they were not humiliated, thanks to some super interceptions and blocks from the hard working Rinomhota.
He had expressed his excitement ahead of the tie against the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer-coached side.
“Playing at Old Trafford has been on my ‘to-do-list’!” he had said before the match.
And when he featured, it became an experience he will ever remember after playing an absolute blinder.
“I’m really happy after bagging the man-of-the-match accolade. Of course, I should be disappointed that we lost the match. We lost to a big team, an experienced side which played better than us, but we actually gave them all sorts of problems.
“I would like to salute my teammates for giving their all in a largely tactical game. We can do even better going forward. Of course, we have exited the FA Cup which is a huge disappointment,” said Rinomhota after Saturday’s match at Old Trafford. The Herald