Warriors post crucial win against Mali

HARARE – The Zimbabwe Warriors today posted a crucial 2-1 win over visiting Mali to keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the 2012 African Cup of Nations finals set for Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

The stadium was filled to capacity as fans turned out in their thousands to support the Warriors in the make-or-break match against Mali at Rufaro Stadium.

Zimbabwe made their intentions clear early as they attacked from the first minute.

The wingers, Ovid Karuru and Khama Billiat roasted their much fancied and tall Malians, who had approached the game physically. 

Zimbabwe’s two strikers, Nyasha Mushekwi and young Knowledge Mason led Zimbabwe’s attack after struggling with niggling injuries during the week.

They missed a glut of chances in the first few minutes of the game before Musona opened his Zimbabwe account  just before halftime with a fine goal after a good exchange of passes by Ovid Karuru and Khama Billiat.

Zimbabwe was unfortunate to have a goal disallowed earlier after young Billie was ruled offside by the South African referee.

Despite criticism over his midfield, Warriors coach, Norman Mapeza used both Tinsahe Nengomasha and Justice Majabvi at the centre and the move paid off as the team looked solid and comfortable in midfield, retaining ball possession against the high fancied Mali.

They dictated the pace with neat and short passes but a lapse in concentration by centreback, Thomas Svesve saw the visitors reducing arrears with a soft goal from El Hadji Traore to silence the capacity crowd that thronged Rufaro.

The Warriors however, kept pressing forward in search of goal and timely substitutions by Mapeza to bring in Edward Sadomba for the marked Mushekwi and Willard Katsande for Justice Majabvi gave the team new impetus.

Outstanding Ovid Karuru broke through Mali’s defence and was hacked down to win a penalty for Zimbabwe, four minutes from time.

Up stepped young Musona to take the kick which was saved by the Mali goalkeeper, Soumaile Diakite but the referee ordered a re-take after judging that Diakite had moved off his line before the spot kick was taken.

The decision sparked commotion as Mali players felt hard done but Musona was unperturbed to send the re-take into the back of the net.

The result has been a sweet victory for the Warriors after Liberia also beat Group A leaders, Cape Verde 1-nil in Monrovia, meaning that the Warriors are now just two points off the top spot.

After this Sunday’s round of matches, Cape Verde remain Group leaders with 7 points, followed by Mali, who have 6.

The Warriors, who have failed to qualify for the last two editions of the continental showpiece in Ghana and Angola, now have 5 points and need to win all their remaining two matches at home against Liberia and away to Cape Verde to qualify for the 2012 AFCON in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.