“#Zimbabwe” THE Warriors might have overcome the Crocodiles of Lesotho 3-1 in an African Nations Championship first leg final qualifier at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday but a late goal by Lesotho forward Kalare Hlompho left Zimbabwe’s chances of qualifying for the 2020 Cameroon finals precariously hanging.
After missing the boat for the last campaign held in Morrocco, the Warriors might rue the away goal scored by the Crocodiles.
The Warriors had appeared on course for a comfortable win after racing into the lead with three goals, courtesy of a double by Prince Dube (20 min and 60min) before substitute Wellington Taderera weighed in with the third six minutes from full time.
It was Dube’s fifth and sixth goal in these qualifiers having scored a hattrick in the previous round against Mauritius. He could have scored two more yesterday.
However, he and his team complicated things for themselves after giving Lesotho a lifeline when skipper Partson Jaure was adjudged to have brought down Toloane Tsepo three minutes into added time.
The Crocodlies forward Hlompho then stepped up to convert the penalty, the goal that could return to haunt the Warriors ahead of the return leg in Lesotho next month.
Zimbabwe struggled to carve out chances in the first half with the hosts’ first shot on target coming after 20 minutes when Dube got to the end of a wonderful delivery in the box by Phineas Bhamusi, taking ragged defending by Lesotho, and headed the opener.
Lesotho though threatened and Thabantso Jane came close moments later but his effort was saved by goalkeeper Simbarashe Chinani.
The Warriors upped their game in the second half and given some bursts of energy following the introduction of Wellington Taderera who came in for Never Tigere on 64 minutes, Dube broke free on 54 minutes and with the goalkeeper having come out of his line, failed to beat him with a chip over.
He, however made amends when he headed home from a corner kick on 60 minutes. Taderera added the third on 84 minutes, drilling a low shot from a set up by Ralph Kawondera.
The visitors who had appeared dead and buried then clawed back into the game in referee’s optional time with a penalty conversion.
Warriors coach Joey Antipas was happy to emerge the winner. “It’s good to win at home. We took our chances but in the first half we struggled with our rhythm. We improved in the second half after we had a chat with the players and we managed to score but we are disappointed to concede a penalty at the end. We have to regroup and prepare for the next match. Lesotho dominated the midfield with some methodical build ups,” said Antipas.
Lesotho coach Thabo Senong said Zimbabwe were the better side and deserved to win. “Congratulations to Zimbabwe, they got their chances, used them and scored. We also had our won chances but were not good enough in the final third. Zimbabwe have attacking options and they can come and score in the return leg so we need to be disciplined in our defence and utilise our chances,’ he said.
Teams: Zimbabwe: S Chinani, P Jaure, I Nekati, X Ndlovu, P Muduwa, T Chipunza, V Kadonzvo (M Phiri 75’), N Tigere (W Taderera 64’), P Dube, R Kawondera, P Bhamusi
Lesotho: L Tsane, B Makepe (S Tibabo 58’), M Mohai, R Rethabile, L Nkau, K Tsoanelo, T Tsepo, K Hlompho, T Jane, F Lehlohonole, S Tsepo (M Mokone 73’)