By Eddie Chikamhi
Zimbabwe’s Warriors turned up too ordinary for the start of their 2021 AFCON football qualifiers last night as they toiled aimlessly in a drawn match against a tactically disciplined Botswana at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
The goalless draw last night left coach Joey Antipas and his men with a lot to ponder on ahead of the second game of the campaign against Zambia on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe needed a bright start at home after Group H rivals Algeria had destroyed Zambia 5-0 the previous day to go top of the table.
But it appeared the weight of expectation took a huge toll instead of inspiring the Warriors in front of their supporters, who left the stadium angry and hurling all kinds of insults at the team, after braving the threat of rains that always hung over the night sky.
Zimbabwe still failed to stamp their authority against this largely home-grown Zebras side despite fielding an array of foreign-based internationals like Marvelous Nakamba, Marshall Munetsi and Teenage Hadebe who are all playing at the highest level in Europe.
Zimbabwe suffered greatly from the lack of creativity. There were no clear cut chances as they struggled to find holes in the well-organised Botswana defence.
The Zebras kept good shape the whole evening and the point they collected away from home was actually a win for them judging by the way they went about their business.
Before this match Zimbabwe had indicated they wanted quick goals in the first half but things did not go according to plan with the bumpy surface at the giant stadium not helping their cause.
Zimbabwe’s first chance came after 17 minutes but it was not clear-cut. Nonetheless, Knox Mutizwa did well to shield his marker but his shot rolled across the face of goal.
Botswana then responded with a swift counter attack through Mpho Stephen Johanes but Teenage Hadebe made a timely interception at the back post.
Warriors captain Knowledge Musona, whose inclusion was a huge subject for debate because of his lack of game-time at his Belgian side Anderlecht, had a chance to redeem himself at the half hour mark but his dipping free- kick was pushed over the bar by goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe after Marshall Munetsi was brought down just outside the box.
Musona, just like most of his teammates, had a terrible outing last night
The visitors did well to hold the Warriors at bay in the first half and were even happy to stay in their half and slowing down the game the whole second half.
Warriors coach Joey Antipas should also have been feeling the pressure as fans began making their frustrations known by whistling and chanting choruses of disapproval at every turn.
Antipas was forced to make a double substitution bringing in Prince Dube and Kuda Mahachi.
The duo brought some sense of urgency and Dubes shot was stopped by the keeper with two minutes remaining.
Zimbabwe now need to go back to the drawing board ahead of the trip to Zambia.
Zimbabwe: E. Chipezeze, I. Nekati, R. Pfumbidzai, T. Hadebe, A. Mudimu, M. Nakamba, M. Munetsi, O. Karuru (K. Mahachi, 78th minute), K. Billiat, K. Musona, K. Mutizwa (P. Dube, 81st minute)
Botswana: K. Dambe, G. Gaugangwe, S. Maturo, T. Dithokwe, O. Ratanang, M. Gaoloalwe, K. Tshifiwe, T. Molebats (M. Dilship, 63rd minute), K. Kobe (M. Ramallapen, 68th minute), K. Seakanyeng, M. Johanes (L. Tshireletso, 51st minute). The Herald