THE Caf Under 23 Championship first leg, final qualifier at Rufaro Stadium yesterday between Zimbabwe and South Africa ended in a 1 -1 draw
SA midfielder Dolly Keagan ran rings around the Young Warriors throughout the 90 minutes, from a slip up by Mutasa to hit the back of the nets with a low shot on 66 minutes after he was set up by Siphelele Ntshangase.
Zimbabwe however, equalized on 83 minutes through a penalty by Walter Musona after South Africa captain Ishmael Mngonyama handled in the penalty area.
Musona stepped up to send goalkeeper Ricardo Goss the wrong way.
Mamelodi Stars’s Kuda Mahachi, who was the only foreign based player in the team, struggled and was eventually substituted with Carlos Rusere.
Captain Wisdom Mutasa was also substituted with Knox Mtizwa coming in for him, with SA remained the dominant side.
But despite reported below par performance by the Zimbabweans, who were said to be largely defensive , Young Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa believes his charges can still make the finals in Senegal, despite media reports of lacklustre performance.
SA on the other hand, despite complaints of being intimidated by local supporters, who were reportedly banging on their dressing room door before the match was also upbeat of the result.
“Despite the intimidation from the home team, we played well. They tried to intimidate us by hitting and knocking on our door.
If you come to South Africa we will treat you professionally. But despite the intimidation we were well received here.
“Credit goes to the team, Keagan ran rings around them throughout. If he can play at Rufaro, he can play anywhere in the world. It is a very difficult place to play. Zimbabwe didn’t give us any problems, Mahachi zero, they took him off, minus one and their captain (Mutasa) they took him. But I was disappointed with the penalty decision for the home side,” said Da Gama.
The return leg of this match is set for August 2 in Johannesburg.
Meanwhile, Zim’s Might Warriors failed to tavel to Ivory Coast for the 2016 Olympics qualifiers after failing to get flight seats for the trip because of lack of funds.
Despite a meeting with Zifa president Cuthber Dube earlier this week over unpaid allowances, the team resumed training on Thursday, only to hit a brick hall in trying to get funds for the trip.
This means Zimbabwe could face a ban from taking part in the 2020 Olympic qualifiers. – NewsDay, New Zimbabwe, www.zimsinsa.com