Zimbabwe 0 – 1 Ghana
WARRIORS’ goalkeeper Talbert Shumba’s shocking howler drove the final nail in Zimbabwe’s quest for the 2022 World Cup, following the defeat to Ghana, at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
The Warriors needed victory, to keep their chances of progressing to the next round alive, but all their hopes came crashing down, courtesy of a solitary strike from Thomas Partey, late in the first half.
The Arsenal man beat the Zimbabwe wall, with a rising shot, from a free kick.
Goalkeeper Shumba, for all his experience, should have done better but he, somehow, failed to stop the effort, which zoomed over his head.
The Ghanaians, who won the reverse fixture 3-1 in Cape Coast at the weekend, completed back-to-back wins, over the hosts, to boost their chances, in Group G.
Zimbabwe, who are still winless in four games, waved goodbye to the World Cup, with just one point in the bag.
Ghana are now on nine points, one adrift of leaders Bafana Bafana, who beat Ethiopia 1-0 yesterday, with two rounds of matches, remaining.
“Obviously, everyone is down because we have lost a match and now two in a row, against a big team,” said Warriors skipper, Knowledge Musona.
“These things happen in football. We just have to look up and prepare for the next game that is coming up, against South Africa.
“We just need to take the positives that we had from these games, and continue to improve on the weaknesses, and to work on the mistakes that we made.
“When you lose a match, everyone is down but, as professional players, it’s only one or two days and then we pick up ourselves, and try to move on.’’
Zimbabwe have now lost three games, on the bounce, in this campaign, following the shock 0-1 defeat away to Ethiopia, which finally cost Croatian coach, Zdravko Logarusic, his job.
The Warriors were looking for fresh inspiration, with the return of Khama Billiat, but they struggled badly yesterday.
Mapeza made six changes to the starting line-up yesterday with United States defender Teenage Hadebe and Alec Mudimu reclaiming their places in the heart of defence.
To their credit, the defence played with more conviction than what happened in Ghana and didn’t give the Black Stars a lot of chances.
England-based Brendan Galloway earned his first cap, in a left-back position, not in central defence, while Rahman Kutsanzira was a surprise choice, on the right side.
He struggled, on the big stage, for the majority of the match but he wasn’t the only one.
Billiat could not impose himself, against tough defenders, who gave him very little space while Marshall Munetsi, who had fitness concerns from the first leg, was a notable omission.
The only bright spot for the Warriors, once again, came from the impressive Jordan Zemura, who could be on his way to become the team’s biggest star, in the future.
Ghana still looked composed despite their coach Milovan Rajevac having to rest their inspirational captain, Andre Ayew, because of health concerns.
France-based forward Kamaldeen Suleymana had their first scoring opportunity as early as the 11th minute when he worked his way into the box but his grounder, at the near post, was fumbled for a corner kick by the jittery Shumba.
He made another schoolboy blunder, just before the breather, when he failed to do the basics of cutting away the flight of the ball, from a corner kick.
But, Terrance Dzvukamanja saved the day, when he cleared the ball from the line, after Daniel Amartey had taken a shot at goal, in the crowded box.
“I was a footballer before,” said Warriors coach Norman Mapeza. “I used to make mistakes as well but my coach never dropped me out of the team.
“He needs to be encouraged, so, if I am going to drop him because of that mistake, I would be like Judas Iscariot.
“This is football, mistakes are bound to happen, it wasn’t his day, he made that mistake but I am proud of what he did, he never looked down.’’
Ghana could have got a second goal soon after the restart but their forward Mohommed Kudus’ curling effort crashed against the cross bar.
“We always get disappointed after losing any match but, like I said when I came in, I knew where the team was,’’ said Mapeza.
“Of course, I promised the nation that I will try my level best to revive the World Cup campaign but now everything is out of our hands.
“What is important at this moment is to continue working hard. I think from today’s game, and the other one we played in Ghana, we had so many positives.
“So, we have to keep working hard in the remaining two matches and try to put up a team that will go and play at the AFCON tournament.’’
Ayew said the Black Stars were looking to finish the campaign strongly.
“I think we all knew that Zimbabwe was a good team, from the first game they played against South Africa,’’ he said.
“We saw what they did and it was difficult for South Africa.
“So, we had a lot of respect for Zimbabwe. That’s why I am very pleased that we have won two games back-to-back.
“It’s very difficult to win home and away games in this short period.’’
Zimbabwe: T. Shumba, R. Kutsanzira, A. Mudimu, T. Hadebe, B. Galloway, K. Madzongwe, M. Nakamba, K. Musona (c), K. Billiat (K. Mahachi, 88th min), J. Zemura (P. Chikwende, 70th min), T. Dzvukamanja (K. Mutizwa, 63rd min)
Ghana: J. Wolacott, D. Amartey, B. Rahman, A. Djiku (J. Aidoo, 75th min), J. Mensah, B. Iddrisu, T. Partey, J. Ayew (S. Owusu, 85th min), S. Kamal Deen (D. Kyereh, 60th min), M. Kudus (A. Ayew, 85th min), B. Tetteh (C. Ekuban, 85th min)