From Petros Kausiyo in RUBAVU, Rwanda
DYNAMOS defender Elisha Muroiwa has been ruled out of Zimbabwe’s second African Nations Championships Group D assignment against Mali dealing a blow to the Warriors rearguard in their decisive match.
After falling to rivals Zambia 1-0 in their opening Group D match at the Umuganda stadium here on Tuesday, the Warriors must now avoid another defeat against the Eagles of Mali if they are to retain interest in the Chan tournament.
Coach Callisto Pasuwa whose side have been unlucky with injuries in the build-up to the competition would also now have to take on the physically superior West Africans on Saturday without their tough centreback Muroiwa.
Muroiwa sustained a deep cut below the left eye after clashing with Zambian defender Stephen Kabamba in an aerial tussle with the DeMbare man also suffering a brief concussion in the process.
Eight minutes after Muroiwa had left the pitch and while team doctor Sowman Mudariki and physiotherapist Tendai Moyana were still attending to him, Zambia took full advantage of his absence to find the goal that swept them to the top of the group standings as Mali and Uganda later fought out a 2-2 draw.
That result means the Warriors now anchor the Group D standings and crucially cannot afford another slip up against the Eagles.
In fact, Warriors coach Pasuwa, who described Muroiwa’s absence from the next game as huge blow, was also not amused with his medical crew who took longer to signal to him to make a change once they had established the extent of the player’s injury.
It took the Warriors bench five minutes to make a change and register with the fourth official their decision to throw in Caps United’s Stephen Makatuka as a replacement.
Makatuka was still to come onto the pitch when disaster struck with veteran Chipolopolo midfielder Isaac Chansa getting to the end of a set piece to connect the ball home for the goal that decided the match.
Pasuwa revealed that he had to rely on the team doctor to get a signal on whether Muroiwa was able to continue with the game or not and regretted the communication breakdown with the medical crew.
As if on cue, the Zambians turned on the pressure on Zimbabwe in that brief spell and while the Warriors were still to reorganise their defensive lines Chipolopolo grabbed the lead which they hung onto until the end.
Pasuwa said he had been advised that Muroiwa now needs three days before he can resume training which will mean he cannot be fit for Saturday’s match.
“We took time to make a decision on Elisha but I had to wait for a signal from the team doctor and he took three minutes to decide on the substitution and that cost us. It is an area that we need to improve on an international match.
“We are learning also and unfortunately for us we learnt on a bad note because we ended up losing the match. “Elisha’s absence means Stephen comes on. I’m worried though, he was having a decent game and in terms of commanding the defence he was doing well. But we are in a tournament, we brought 23 players so anyone should be ready to play.
“At the moment Elisha is the only major injury but we also have Hardlife (Zvirekwi) who has a cut above the knee but is being assessed by the doctor,’’ Pasuwa said.