Warriors must brace for Angola backlash

HARARE - No one can deny Zimbabwe their moment in the sun following the spirit-lifting 3-1 win over Angola on Sunday, but the hard work still lies ahead for the Warriors, who must expect a strong comeback from the Palancas Negras in the return leg next month.

If truth be told, Zimbabwe did not play particularly well and lacked fluidity as a team due to the insufficient time spent in camp ahead of the match.

It was a good thing, perhaps, the Warriors were able to win while playing below par, which gives them a wonderful opportunity to rectify the mistakes made ahead of the Luanda trip.  

Sunday’s victory gives the Warriors a two-goal lead to take to Luanda on October 14 hoping to make their third Afcon finals appearance in South Africa early next year.

For about 30 minutes in that opening half, the Warriors played purposefully and deservedly got the three goals albeit against the run of play.

In any sport you create your own luck and Zimbabwe did exactly that against the Palancas Negras, which puts them to within a shout of qualifying for South Africa 2013.

It was the second half capitulation by the home side that had many people inside Rufaro worried though.

The Warriors failed to maintain the same intensity they had in the opening minutes, allowing the visitors to totally dominate the second period.

Angola was able to score a vital away goal through second half substitute Djalma in the 58th minute, which will give them a lot of hope for the second leg.

The visitors went on to besiege the Warriors goal and with a little bit of luck, they could have forced a draw as they created numerous chances.

Most of those chances fell to Valladolid forward Manucho, who was introduced on 64 minutes to replace Nando Rafael.

The former Manchester United man inexcusably shot wide and headed over from two opportunities that one would normally expect him to score.

For the home fans, it was a torrid last 32 minutes after Djalma’s goal as they anxiously waited for the final whistle.

Carrying a two goal lead to Luanda will be a big boost for Zimbabwe, but they cannot afford to play like they did in the second half on Sunday and get away with it.

The Warriors completely lost the plot and were a pale shadow of the side that had bamboozled Angola in the first half.

It will only take one goal in Luanda to trigger a Palancas Negras comeback and shutter the Warriors dream of qualifying for South Africa.

The Angolans cannot be blamed for feeling optimistic ahead of the second leg.

“We will reverse the tie in our favour in the second leg at home. We knew it would be a very difficult game. I think that the team got nervous and lacked experience in the initial stages,” said the La Liga-based forward Manucho.

Luanda has also not been a favourite destination for the Warriors, who are yet to win a match there in five previous visits.

The best result the Warriors achieved in the Angolan capital were 0-0 and 1-1 draws in the Cosafa Castle Cup in 2001 and a World Cup in 1993 respectively.

The other three visits have ended in defeats with the latest being the 1-0 defeat suffered in a World Cup qualifier in 2004.

Zimbabwe can take heart from the fact that they have never lost to the Angolans by a wide margin though.

The biggest defeats the Warriors suffered in that country are two 2-1 loses in 1996 and 1997 in World Cup and Afcon qualifiers.

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