THE Mighty Warriors are through to the second round of the 2016 Rio Olympic qualifiers after beating Zambia in the first round, second leg match at Rufaro Stadium yesterday.
Felistas Muzongondi’s goal from a freekick in the 24th minute ensured safe passage for the hosts on the away goals rule after the first leg finished 2-1 last week in Zambia’s favour.
Zambia, however, missed a good opportunity to dampen the hosts’ spirits when substitute Irene Lungu missed the target from the penalty spot in the 67th minute.
Zimbabwe’s next opponents are Ivory Coast at the next stage in late July with the aggregate winner progressing to the final round for the Rio finals next year.
The win was a perfect gift for two Mighty Warriors technical team members in coach Rosemary Mugadza and kit manager Fungai Nyamutukwa who earlier in the week had celebrated turning 46 and 35 years of age, respectively.
Despite the chilly weather, the two got a soaking from the players at the final whistle as the home side celebrated their big victory in style.
Mugadza managed to say a few words to the media before she rushed to the dressing room.
“The girls did well especially in the first half because we wanted an early goal and we managed to do just that.
“I’m happy with the performance considering the short space of time we had to prepare for this match. We have to start preparing for the next round,” said Mugadza.
“The girls applied themselves well, but I wasn’t particularly pleased with the second half. It was probably because of our fitness level, we were playing a team that was in camp for almost a month for this match,” added Mugadza.
Zambia assistant coach Yona Phiri said: “We are disappointed that we could not protect our lead from the first leg, but the good thing is we have a very young squad which we will work with for a very long time. We conceded a silly goal and also missed a penalty, but such is football, we will have to move on. Credit to Zimbabwe, they had a better game plan than us for this match and they should keep it up going forward.”
Both teams made changes to their starting line-ups from the first leg. Mugadza made three alterations with Dzingirai reclaiming her position between the posts, Eunice Chibanda was named ahead of Rudo Neshamba, the scorer of the away goal in Lusaka, while Erina Jeke replaced Samkeliso Zulu. Zambia on the other hand made just one change, Lweendo Chisamu was preferred ahead of Meja Banda.
Needing a goal to overturn the 2-1 score from the first leg, it was the home side who started brightly, but despite all their possession, they never truly troubled the away goalkeeper Hazel Nali in the opening minutes.
Zimbabwe, though, thought they had scored an early goal they badly needed when Chibanda bundled home after a melee inside the box, but the referee disallowed the goal saying Nali had been fouled in the build-up.
But that wouldn’t matter much though moments later when Muzongondi lobbed Nali from a freekick on the edge of the box. The goalkeeper had committed the foul, handling the ball outside her area.
Up until that time, Zambia were playing a cautious game as was expected, but the goal forced them out of their shells and their first attack of note towards the halftime break almost resulted in a goal, but Mercy Wilombe’s shot flew just over with Dzingirai at sea.
Zimbabwe: C Dzingirai, P Mujuru, N Majika, T Mandaza, S Makoto, E Msipa, F Muzongondi (M Mafuruse, 90′), M Nyaumwe, E Chibanda (R Neshamba, 70′), E Jeke (S Zulu, 85′), M Chirandu.
Zambia: H Nali, A Kibanji, M Belemu, L Chisamu, A Mulenga, M Wilombe, E Mukwasa, O Kaleo (I Lungu, 65′), M Zulu (M Limwanya, 56′), H Mubanga, B Banda