From Petros Kausiyo in RUSTENBURG, SA
Zimbabwe 2-0 Mauritius
IT was just what the doctor ordered as Zimbabwe’s Warriors responded to the call by their assistant coach Saul Chaminuka to put behind their woes and get their Cosafa Cup campaign off to a flying start with a victory over Mauritius at Moruleng Stadium here last night.
A goal in each half by the Dynamos midfield pair of Carlos Rusere and Man of the Match on the night Ronald Chitiyo ensured the Warriors shot to the top of the Group A standings as they powered to a deserved win.
Chaminuka had preached to his charges that they needed to put behind them the problems they encountered with their camping in the build-up to the tournament with players being released from their clubs in drips and drabs and focus on the job at hand.
The former ZPC Kariba coach was left a satisfied man even as his payers missed a glut of chances that could have seen them win by at least half a dozen goals.
Despite their dominance on the night, the Warriors had to wait until the 28th minute to get their breakthrough with Rusere getting to the end of a looping cross from Caps United skipper and right back Hardlife Zvirekwi.
Rusere connected with a first time low shot to the far post of a badly exposed Mauritius goalkeeper Kevin Jean-Louis.
The Dynamos rookie midfielder will probably cherish the goal as it came on his Warriors debut.
Yet the Warriors were barely troubled by the Indian Ocean islanders and showed the gulf in strength between the two nations with a dominant display that in fact should have been rewarded with more goals were it not for lack of precision.
The Warriors underlined their intentions on the night with bustling Hwange forward Pritchard Mphelele, Dynamos talisman Chitiyo and Raphael Manuvire of ZPC Kariba taking turns to test Mauritius goalkeeper Jean-Louis.
But just like in the opening game between Namibia and Seychelles in which the Brave Warriors failed to turn their dominance into goals, Zimbabwe were forced to wait a little longer for their breakthrough against the second Indian Ocean island side in Group A.
That breakthrough then came just before the half hour mark when Rusere got to the end of Zvirekwi’s cross.
Zimbabwean fans, the majority in the crowd at Moruleng stadium, responded by inspiring the Warriors with song and dance.
But that Chigova was only tested once on the night showed how much Zimbabwe dominated this game and Rusere had a chance to add to his tally in the 37th minute but his effort just went wide off the post.
Four minutes after resumption Zimbabwe came charging again down the right channel with Zvirekwi and Chitiyo combining well to set up Mphelele, who however made a mess with his attempted overhead kick from inside the box.
Rusere, always dangerous from the left flank, ghosted in on the blind side but saw his shot blocked by the busy Mauritian goalkeeper.
On the hour Jean-Louis called was once again into action to thwart Hwange’s Evans Rusike as the Warriors continued their search for their second goal of the night.
In the 65th minute Chitiyo released a half volley that just went over with the goalkeeper nowhere near the action.
A minute later Chitiyo got it right this time volleying home from close range after Jean-Louis had spilled a stinging shot from Rusike.
That 66th minute attempt on goal was Rusike’s last touch before he was taken off to make way for Harare City’s Talent Chawapihwa as Chaminuka sought to keep the pressure on and also ensure Zimbabwe got as many goals as they could which could prove vital should the group need to be decided by goal difference on May 22.
Chigova, a bystander for much of the night, had to summon his agility to punch out an attempt by Mauritius forward Luis Pethia on one of the few occasions that the islanders breached Partson Jaure and his defence.
Chaminuka also handed another debut to young FC Platinum forward Marshall Mudehwe who came on in the 76th minute but was unlucky to see his effort hit the underside of the bar and rebound back into play with his first touch after coming on for the injured Mphelele.
The manner in which the Warriors confidently stroked the ball around won them the admiration of many in the stadium and left Chaminuka happy to note that “at least we have something to start from’’.
“Given our lack of adequate preparations I will excuse the players tonight for missing the chances the way we did today but I will keep emphasising to them that we need to improve on our precision and make use of the chances that we create,’’ Chaminuka said.
Chaminuka also rated the victory over Mauritius as the most significant of their Cosafa Campaign here.
“It was the most important win of the tournament because we needed something to boost our confidence. If we had lost or drawn, I’m sure it would have eaten into our confidence but now we’ve to build on from here and we will maintain our attacking plan against Seychelles in the next game,’’ Chaminuka said.
The Warriors will go into the second round of matches as he only team in their pool to have scored and also won while Mauritius will anchor the Group A standings with Namibia and Seychelles having a point apiece.
Zimbabwe: George Chigova, Thomas Magorimbo, Danny Phiri (Tichaona Chipunza, 85th minute) , Hardlife Zvirekwi, Partson Jaure, Evans Rusike (Talent Chawapihwa, 67th minute), Pritchard Mpelele ( Marshall Mudehwe, 76th minute), Raphael Manuvire, Carlos Rusere, Raphael Kawondera, Ronald Chitiyo
Mauritius: Kelvin Obrian Jean-Louis, Chandrayah Veeranah, Louis Marco Dorza , Emmanuel Rudy Vincent Jean, Bruno Raviona, Jean Pascal Desire Bazerque, Jimmy Hendrix Buckland, John Calambe (Joseph Perticots 46th minute), Christopher David Lengclume, Jean Steve Jonathan Justin (Rasolofinirina Francis 70th minute).