By Grace Chingoma
Young warriors coach, Tonderai Ndiraya, feels his charges represented their country with honour in their drawn COSAFA Under-20 championship match against South Africa yesterday.
Ndiraya’s team were just moments from a deserved victory, in their opening group match in Port Elizabeth, when the hosts squeezed a last-gasp equaliser for a share of the spoils.
For a team, which was assembled only 10 days ago, this was a hearty show by the Young Warriors who would have been full value for victory had they hung on to their advantage.
“This was our first competitive match, with a team assembled, and which only trained for 10 days,’’ said Ndiraya.
“So, I am happy about the way they went about their business.
“We couldn’t go pound-for-pound because of our fitness levels, so we sat back (to try and defend their lead).
“We conceded a soft goal, but I am glad with my boys, who were playing a strong team.’’
The championships are also being used as qualifiers for the African Under-20 AFCON finals.
Zimbabwean midfielder, , was the toast of his team with a goal, and an assist, which took his side to the gates of victory only for Amajita to find a way to spoil their party.
Twice, the Young Warriors took the lead, and appeared to have the game under control, until the very last minute of the match, when the hosts found a way to level the scores at Wolfson Stadium, in Port Elizabeth.
Mujokoro first set up Panashe Mutimbanyoka, in the ninth minute, before putting his name on the scoresheet, with about 15 minutes of regulation time, remaining.
Oswin Appolis was the first to equalise, for the South Africans, deep in the first period before Mohlala Makola fired home the late equaliser.
Mujokoro, who was the Bulawayo province Biya award best youth player in 2015, provided the perfect cross for Mutimbanyoka, the FC Platinum midfielder, to head home the opener in the ninth minute.
Then, Mujokoro appeared to have found the winner, late in the second half, when he headed home a ball, swung from a counter, home.
The Young Warriors had lost defender Malvern Hativagoni, who had to pulled out on a stretcher, to be replaced by the highly-rated Ngezi Platinum midfielder Tendai Matindife.
Amajita coach, Helman “Midnight Express’’ Mkhalele, said their opponents ran out of steam towards the end of the match, and his team capitalised on that.
He feels they could have won the match had they converted the chances they created.
In an earlier Group A match, Mozambique beat Lesotho 1-0.
The Young Mambas now lead the group with three points with Zimbabwe and South Africa on one point each.
The Young Warriors meet the Young Mambas on Sunday, in their second match, before taking on Lesotho on December 8.
The group winners progress to the semi-finals while the best runners-up, from the three groups, will join them in the last four.
The two teams that reach the final qualify for the Under-20 AFCON finals which would be held in Mauritania next year.
Zimbabwe and South Africa’s last encounter, in the 2018 COSAFA final, ended in a draw but Amajita lifted the Cup after beating the Young Warriors on penalties.
The Young Warriors have won the Cup six times but, in recent years, their fortunes in the tournament have faded.
Their last success story came in 2007 with the team under the guidance of Rodwell Dhlakama.
That side also announced the arrival of Warriors captain, Knowledge Musona, on the big stage.
Last year the team did not enter the competition and, this year, they almost failed to travel to the tournament because of some boardroom challenges.
Raphael Pitisi, Malvern Hativagoni (Tendai Matindife 76th min), Tinotenda Muringai, Mannered Matsikidze, Munashe Katondo, Munashe Garananga, Panashe Mutimbanyoka, Lexington Mujokoro (Bill Antonio 76th min), Tapiwa Mandinyenya (Dibbellar Mapuwa 70th min), Kelvin Mangiza, Munashe Pini. The Herald.