ZIMBABWE . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 2
ALGERIA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (2) 2
KNOWLEDGE Musona scored a spectacular free kick and substitute Prince Dube netted with his first touch of the ball as the Warriors came from two goals down to earn a priceless point against Algeria in this 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Group H qualifier played in an empty National Sports Stadium in Harare yesterday.
The African champions had raced into a two-goal lead thanks to a header by Andy Derlot on the 34th minute and a sublime goal by superstar Riyad Mahrez who cut inside and finished with his trademark curler.
Musona, clearly the best player on the field for the hosts, pulled one back with a free kick just outside the box with two minutes remaining before the half-time break.
The skipper then provided an assist for the second goal on 82nd minute when his corner was side footed home by Dube who had just replaced Tendai Darikwa.
With this result, Zimbabwe remained firmly on course of qualifying for the 2022 Afcon finals as they have five points with clashes against Botswana and Zambia still to come.
Algeria on the other hand moved to 10 points and become one of the first countries to book a ticket to the finals which will be played in Cameroon in January 2022.
Zimbabwe, whose next match is away to Botswana before concluding their campaign with a home match against Zambia, will know that the point that they gained yesterday could prove to be very crucial when the Group H points are collated at the end of the campaign.
The Warriors will seal a place at the finals if they beat Botswana next, and Zambia lose to Algeria.
Botswana and Zambia are tied on four points after the former’s shock 1-0 win in the two teams’ clash in Gaborone last night.
Needing to get a positive result in the match yesterday, Warriors coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarušić made four bold changes to his line-up which lost 3-1 to the same opponent in Algiers on Thursday.
The team’s poster boy Khama Billiat was one of the players who lost their places in the starting line-up alongside Divine Lunga, Ovidy Karuru and Alec Mudimu.
In came David Moyo, Tafadzwa Rusike, Adam Chicksen and Jimmy Dzingai to replace them.
Before this match, Logarušić had expressed disappointment over the way his team gave away goals in Algiers last week.
He should have been enraged even more with the manner his defenders gifted the visitors with goals again yesterday.
Derlot was enjoying unrestricted movement between the two central defenders Teenage Hadebe and Dzingai.
After he was denied by an acrobatic save from goalkeeper Talbert Shumba on 29th minute, there was nothing the veteran goalkeeper could do when the striker returned five minutes later.
Derlot rose unmarked inside the six-yard box to power his header home.
Mahrez then showed why he plays for Manchester City in England when he trapped down a cross field pass with the back of his boot to set himself on the way.
The winger left the retreating Chicksen in a heap before curling the ball beyond the outstretched hands of Shumba.
Unlike in Algiers when Zimbabwe got some good chances early on, this time around, they only received half chances which came far in-between.
Their real threat came from set-pieces and after Musona hit the cross bar from a free kick, he was more precise a minute later when the Belgium-based striker fired home from an acute angle.
Logarušić made four changes at halftime introducing Billiat, Karuru, Mahachi and Lunga.
The changes looked to have invigorated the home side and they should have equalised on 56th minute but Tino Kadewere’s header was tipped over by the Algerian goalkeeper.
Moments later, Karuru arrived just a second late to connect a Mahachi cross.
The Warriors were enjoying possession and control of the match. Kadewere then bundled Musona’s cross just wide before the skipper miscued his shot as chances continued to come their way.
Sensing blood, Logarušić threw caution to the wind by removing defender Darikwa for striker Dube. And a minute later, the move paid off as the Tanzania-based striker made a huge impact when he connected a Musona corner from an acute angle as the two teams settled for a share of spoils.
Zimbabwe: T Shumba, T Darikwa (P Dube, 81), J Dzingai, T Hadebe, A Chicksen (D Lunga, 46’), M Nakamba, T Rusike (O Karuru, 46’), J Zemura (K Mahachi, 46’), K Musona, D Moyo (K Billiat, 46’), T Kadewere
Algeria: A Mbolhi, A Mandi, E Benlamri, M Reda, R Mahrez, A Delort, S Feghouli, M Benrahma, M Guedioura, R Bensebaini, I Bennacer. ■