By Sikhumbuzo Moyo
AGAINST all odds and after a disappointing opening round draw at home against Botswana, Zimbabwe put up a tactically disciplined, spirited performance to stun Zambia in an Afcon 2021 qualifier at Heroes Stadium in Lusaka last night.
Two goals by poster boy, Khama Billiat, in either half saw Joey Antipas becoming the first Warriors gaffer to beat Zambia in an Afcon qualifier in five meetings that the two sides have met and now remain in contention for qualification to the continental showpiece in Cameroon, come 2021.
Billiat propelled Zimbabwe to an early lead in the 10th minute when he headed in a corner but that was short lived as speed merchant Partson Daka drew the home side level with a ferocious rising shot that beat a bemused Elvis Chipezeze in goal for Zimbabwe from the near post.
From then on, it looked like Chipolopolo, needing a win after a 5-0 whacking by defending champions Algeria in their opening match last week, would overrun Zimbabwe as they kept on charging forward but the defensive line up of Alec Mudimu, gangly Teenage Hadebe, Ronald Pfumbidzai and Ian Nekati would not budge. They were also ably supported by midfield rock Marvelous Nakamba and his engineroom partner, Marshal Munetsi.
Never attacking when not necessary, the methodical build ups and quick counter attacks especially by captain Knowledge Musona, who had a brilliant night which he capped with a killer pass to Billiat 11 minutes before time for the Kaizer Chiefs man to bury home before a diving Chibe Mweya, was always deadly.
With the clock ticking away Antipas took out Musona for Partson Jaure in the 84th minute before also retiring Nakamba for Butho-lezwe Ncube deep into added time.
The Afcon qualifiers will resume in August next year with the Warriors setting up a date against Algeria in back to back matches in which The Desert Foxes will be at home first before coming to Zimbabwe for the return leg a week later. The Warriors then travel to Botswana for the return leg during the weekend of October 5-11 and then wrap up their campaign with a home tie against Zambia.
Zambia: Mwenya Chibwe, Donashano Malama, Lawrence Chungu, Kabaso Chongo, Tandi Mwape, Nathan Sinkala, Enock Mwepu, Evans Kangwa (Mwape Musonda 75th mins), Augustine Mulenga, Patson Daka, Justin Shonga
Substitutes: Mwila Phiri, Salulani Phiri, Kelvin Kampamba, Toatser Nsabata, Sebastian Mwange, Isaac Shamujompa, Clement Mwape, Lazarous Kambole, 8. Salulani Phiri, , Cletus Chama
Zimbabwe: Elvis Chipezeze, Ian Nekati, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Alec Mudimu, Marshal Munetsi, Ovidy Karuru, Khama Billiat, Teenage Hadebe, Kudakwashe Mahachi, (Prince Dube 60th mins). Knowledge Musona (Partson Jaure 84th min), 18. Marvelous Nakamba (Butholezwe Ncube 90 +2mins)
Substitutes: Cliff Moyo, Knox Mutizwa, Thabani Kamusoko, Kevin Moyo, Simbarashe Chinani. The Chronicle