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Date: 25 April 2019

  General - Soccer

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Zim allow Algeria to salavage late 2-2 draw at AFCON 2017

[Posted 15 Jan 2017]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
Zim celebrate Mahachi"s goal at AFCON 2017 -15 January 2017 at Stade de Franceville, Gabon

A combination of a poor tactical approach in the second half from the technical bench, inexperience and costly mistakes cost Zimbabwe's Warriors a very possible victory in their Gabon AFCON 2017 opening game against the Desert Foxes of Algeria, who rallied from behind to force a late 2-2 draw at the Stade de Franceville on Sunday night, 15 January 2017.

The Warriors of Zimbabwe put up a gutsy performance full of life and very attractive football, and against all expectations, outplayed Algeria in the first half, with star forward from CAF Champions 2016  winners Mamelodi Sundowns, leading the Zimbabwean assault on the Desert Foxes.

Zim were the first to force a corner kick in the 2nd minute from an attack involving the brilliant Billiat. From that corner which was well defended by Algeria, Billiat struck a well-timed volley which crashed against the upright to the Algerian keeper Rais Mbholi's left. A slight touch of the ball saved the day for Algeria.

Algeria hit back immediately with CAF Footballer of the year and reigning English PFA Player of the year Riyad Mahrez punishing the Zimbabweans with a curler which beat the badly positioned Tatenda Mukuruva, to take the lead in the 12th minute.

Zim lost Musona to what appears like a groin injury and many expected them to crumble, having lost their talisman. In the absence of suspended key midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, Musona was expected to provide creativity. All expected Zim to crumble, but team effort carried the day for the only representative from Southern Africa. A tactical substitution with Matthew Rusike took many by surprise. With benefit of hindsight, Pasuwa may realise that Evans Rusike might have been a better option. Pasuwa tactically got it wrong a few times throughout the match.

A brilliant movement on the left involving Golden Arrows of South African midfielder Danny Phiri, saw the man they call Deco feed attacking midfielder Kudakwashe Mahachi on the left. Mahachi subtracted his man before firing into the bottom corner for Zimbabwe's equaliser in the 18th minute.

Zimbabwe were in top gear from then on, running rings around the Algerian midfield with Mahachi, Captain Williard Katsande, Danny Phiri and Billiat dominant in that midfield.

Billiat was to force Mbholi into a save in the 22nd minute, before Bhasera was brought down in the box in the 29th minute, and Nyasha Mushekwi brilliantly sent Mbholi to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.

Billiat was to be denied by Mbholi in the second half again.

Zimbabwe then made a mistake of taking the foot off the pedal and defended too deeply in their half, from where a number of stray passes in the second half gave warning sounds that Algeria were being set up nicely for heart-breaking equaliser.

Still the brilliance of Zimbabwe on the break was evident throughout the second half, but the Warriors were their own worst enemies, siting back and allowing the Algerians to come at them in numbers. Defending has not been this talented Warriors team's strength. The team thrives on putting opponents under pressure given their speed, agility, and the array of skilful players who can beat defences at will with pace such as Musona, Billiat and Mahachi, and Ndoro, when given a chance.

Substitute Cuthbert Malajila should have wrapped up the game for Zimbabwe, but a combination of perhaps selfishness and terrible finishing saw him missing a sitter in the 80th minute! He had Mahachi to simply lay the ball to for a simpler tap in than going for goal.  For the umpteenth time, Mbholi came to the Desert Foxes' rescue.

In the 82nd minute, the Warriors sat back and allowed the dangerous Mahrez acres of space which he exploited to punish for Malajila's earlier howler from 25 metres to surprisingly beat Mukuruva. The Zimbabwean keeper Mukuruva should be embarrassed for letting in such a tame strike! Clearly the keeper did not prove to be team's strongest point that he was during the qualifiers. It was 2-2.

Pasuwa, again, made a substitution that many doubted in the 78th minute, replacing Mushekwi with Malajila. Perhaps the coach considered the Bidvest Wits striker's experience and workrate when he loses the ball, with the Warriors chasing the ball at that stage. Was Tendai Ndoro not a better option perhaps? The Orlando Pirates is clearly in great scoring form for his club, and proved he can score goals by netting twice in a friendly against Cameroon on 10 January in Yaoundé, a match which ended 1-1, with Ndoro's second goal having been ruled for offside.

The coach will be happy to welcome back Nakamba from suspension in the next fixture against Senegal on the 19th January. And perhaps Musona's injury is not that serious and he might be back. Again, the wisdom of Pasuwa in starting with a player who was clearly unfit begs for answers. The Warriors coach has to do his homework and get his tactics right, especially his choice of players!

Welldone to the gallant fighters! Khama Billiat, birthday boy Katsande, Mahachi, Bhasera, Phiri gave hearty performances, and the entire team must be commended. The technical bench should come to the party in the next match.

Here are the log standings, with Senegal beating Tunisia 2-0 in the second Group B match played at the Stade de Franceville. Senegal lead standings, while Zimbabwe and Algeria share second spot. Tunisia anchor the log.

1Senegal          11002023
2 Zimbabwe      10102201
2Algeria             10102201
4Tunisia             100102-20



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