19 October 2015 08:00
Sunday, 18 October 2015 is a day that Zimbabwean football followers would not forget easily after the men and women’s national teams chalked victories in their respective assignments at home.
The women’s national team, nicknamed Mighty Warriors, made history when they beat Cameroon 1-0 at Rufaro Stadium in Harare to book their ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games, whilst their male counterparts, Warriors, managed a 3-1 victory over Lesotho in Bulawayo in a Southern Zone qualifier for the Orange African Nations Championship (CHAN) Rwanda 2016.
The Mighty Warriors won courtesy of a strike by Rudo Neshamba in the ninth minute which tied the aggregate after both legs 2-2, but ensured the Zimbabweans went through via the away goal rule.
Neshamba scored the lone goal in 2-1 defeat in Yaounde a fortnight ago, but it was her strike in Harare that deciding the tie, earning the Mighty Warriors a historic first ever qualification to the multisport event.
Mighty Warriors assistant coach, Sithethelelwe ‘Kwinji’ Sibanda said the match was tough despite the victory, whilst lauding the tactical play of her team.
“It was a tough match but our players managed to adhere to our game plan. Our aim was to have a higher ball possession because we knew Cameroon was physically better to us. I’m very happy that we did not concede any goal though. Let me hasten to say a lot has to be done for us to be victorious in the Olympic Games,” she said.
Elsewhere at the Barbourfields Stadium, an exquisite second half display saw Zimbabwe taking a healthy 3-1 lead in the CHAN qualifier against Lesotho.
A brace by Rodrick Mutuma and another strike by captain, Danny Phiri was enough to secure victory for the Warriors.
Although Zimbabwe had been expected to get it right in the first half they waited for the second stanza to score three crucial goals.
Head Coach Kallisto Pasuwa’s talk during the break seems to have made the big difference as the team attacked from the first minute of the second half and a search for the goal by Knox Mutizwa saw him being brought down in the penalty area and the referee did not hesitate to point to the spot in the 46th minute. Mutuma stepped up to take the penalty and scored the first of his two goals.
The goal buoyed the players’ confidence who surged onto the visitors goal area. The Dynamos striker was at hand to score his second goal when Ocean Mushure flighted in a free kick, which the gangly striker just pushed in with his belly in the 57th minute.
Lesotho pulled one back in the 61st minute when Mutuma was disposed and Tsepo Suturumawe reacted quickly to slot it in past Donovan Bernard, who was in between the post for Zimbabwe.
Phiri has the last say of the game with a low drive when he was set up by Mutizwa in the 79th minute.
Pasuwa was elated after the game saying they picked up momentum in the second half to bury Lesotho.
He said the goals will cushion them when they play Lesotho in the second leg next Saturday.
“I didn’t want them to get the away goal but they did so we have to work hard in the return leg to ensure we get a positive result. Playing away is difficult and we have to be on the guard,” he said,
Zimbabwe will be aiming to make it to their third consecutive CHAN tournament and expectations will be high this time around as last year they made it into the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners, Libya.
image credit: www.newsday.co.zw