Ellina Mhlanga, Harare Bureau
Zimbabwe 1 – 2 Zambia
(Zimbabwe 2, Zambia 2 on aggregate. Zambia qualify on away goals rule)
ZIMBABWE’S Mighty Warriors were left kicking themselves after they went down to Zambia in the final round of the Africa Women Cup of Nations soccer qualifiers yesterday at Rufaro to bow out of this year’s tournament.
The Mighty Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the first leg in Lusaka last Wednesday and yesterday they were the first to score in the 45th minute through Erina Jeke.
But they could not hold on to the lead with Zambia coming back a better side in the last half of the game and Hellen Chanda equalised for her side in the 54th minute from Barbara Banda’s pass.
Banda then scored the visitors second goal with four minutes to go, taking Zambia through to the finals set for November 17 to December 1 in Ghana on away goals rule after the match ended 2-2 on aggregate
Mighty Warriors coach Sithethelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda blamed their defeat on the lapse of concentration.
“It’s very unfortunate but such things do happen in football but obviously we are not happy about it.
“We played well. But I believe we let in soft goals, especially the second one which came as a result of some loss of concentration at the back and the defence failed to track the scorer of which we knew in terms of pace they (Zambia) possess much better explosive pace than us. But we failed to track that goalscorer and we were punished for it.
“And at the end of the day we have lost and we are out of the competition and it’s congratulations to the Zambians… We wish them all the best in Ghana,” said Sibanda.
It was an unfortunate day for the Mighty Warriors after Emmaculate Msipa, who had come in for Erina Jeke in the 65th minute, had to be taken off the pitch on a stretcher after she collided with Chanda and could not continue with the game.
She was replaced by Daisy Kaitano.
Sibanda said that also affected their game plan.
“Again that substitution which was supposed to happen I don’t know… it also killed us. I don’t know if there was some poor communication with the referee or whatsoever and we had the wrong substitute which had to stand and we had to let a player who was struggling with her game continue with the rest of the game.
“And again the injury to Emma to stabilise the midfield also was a big blow. But, however, we could have been mentally better to hold on to that at least to came out with a draw which could have seen us go through,” said Sibanda.
This was the third time the two countries were meeting in the final round of the qualifiers. Their first meeting was in 2014 and Zambia triumphed over Zimbabwe to qualify for the tournament then known as the Africa Women Championships.
They then clashed again in 2016 and Zimbabwe were the better side, emerging winners to qualify for Cameroon and had hoped to return to the continental tournament when they hosted their arch-rivals at Rufaro yesterday in the second leg of the last round qualifier.
Zambia’s coach Bruce Mwape was pleased with the outcome and attributed their success to some changes to the team that saw Chanda starting yesterday while Banda, who could not finish the game in Zambia after sustaining an ankle injury, had a good game.
“Actually, I am very happy with the result although Zimbabwe have been our obstacle, starting way back in 2014. But this time around we made some few changes but Zimbabwe they are a very good team I can say. They have got some good players who have got experience than ours.
“Even in Lusaka we actually played well. It’s only that we failed to utilise the chances, we actually created a lot of chances but we failed to score due to poor finishing that was our problem. So upfront we made two changes and the two changes that we made actually gave us a win today,” said Mwape.
Zimbabwe: C Dzingirai, N Majika, L Mutokuto, N Ncube, S Makoto, T Mandaza, M Nyaumwe, F Muzongondi, M Chirandu, E Jeke (E Msipa 65th min) (D Kaitano 75mins). R Makore.
Zambia: H Nali, M Zulu, R Chileshe, L Chisamu, A Mulenga, M Mwakaipa, B Banda, H Chanda, M Belemu, M Mabwe (R Kundanaji 55th min), M Tembo.