Warriors show promise

HARARE - New Zimbabwe football coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels began his reign on a positive note when his youthful Warriors team completed a comeback win over Botswana in an international friendly yesterday.

First half goals from Khama Billiat and captain Denver Mukamba cancelled out Lemponye Tshireletso’s early opener for Botswana.

The Zebras got off to a flyer and it was no surprise when Tshireletso sneaked in at the back post to meet Joel Mogorosi before beating Warriors goalkeeper Washington Arubi.

Zimbabwe’s defence went to sleep on that occasion, in particular centre back Gilbert Mapemba, who allowed the ball to pass him before reaching Tshireletso.

The early minutes presented anxious moments for the Zimbabwe defence as the back three of Mapemba, Ocean Mushure and Hardlife Zvirekwi struggled with their roles in the 3-5-2 formation preferred by Pagels.

It looked like a rout was on the cards for the visitors, who were clearly looking the hungrier of the two sides in those early exchanges.

As the game progressed, the Warriors started to knock the ball around confidently with Archieford Gutu, Matthew Rusike and Denver Mukamba dictating play in midfield.

The Warriors started to play from the back with goalkeeper Arubi opting to pass to any of the three centre backs when in possession.

Gutu, who had an outstanding game, was also dropping deep to pick up the ball before carrying it forward into the attacking.

The home side was able to string at least more than 10 pass during a single phase, something Zimbabwean teams are not accustomed to.  

Zimbabwe were duly level in the 18th minute when Zebras goalkeeper Noah Maposa spilled Rusike’s cross from the right wing.

Billiat was at hand to poke the ball home from close range to punish Maposa’s mistake.

The equaliser gave the youthful Warriors side the confidence they needed to push forward with more verve and it came as no surprise when the home side took the lead after 26 minute.

Mukamba exchanged passes with Knowledge Musona on the edge of the box before he fired in a low shot that beat Maposa off the upright.

Zimbabwe were now in their stride after taking the lead and could have gone into the halftime break with at least a two goal advantage.

Maposa atoned for his earlier mistake by saving Rusike’s goal-bound header at the back post after some good work by Mukamba on the left.

At the break, Pagels made three changes by bringing in defender Lincoln Zvasiya for Mapemba while the 18-year-old holding midfielder Nicolas Guyo was handed his Warriors debut when he came in for Peter Moyo.

Abbas Amidu replaced Rusike on the right side of the midfield.

Despite making a few blind passes after coming on, Guyo, who is yet to play in the Zimbabwe top-flight after joining Monomotapa from lower division side Manhingi FC, showed some deft touches.

The hosts should have increased their lead but Maposa made a number of good saves to deny Silas Songani, Billiat and Amidu in the second period.

Botswana could have sneaked in a late equaliser but substitute Lesego Galanamotlhale’s glancing header missed the target by a few inches with three minutes to go.

In the end, it was a deserved win for Pagels’ new-look, who played a passing game from start to finish.

The Warriors’ next assignment will be the 2014 World Cup qualifier away to Egypt next month and from yesterday’s showing, Pagels has a good base to work with.

SQUADS       

Zimbabwe: Washington Arubi, Denver Mukamba (Ronald Chitiyo 50min), Hardlife Zvirekwi, Gilbert Mapemba (Lincoln Zvasiya, 46min), Ocean Mushure, Peter Moyo (Nicolas Gora 46min), Archford Gutu, Silas Songani (Masimba Mambare, 75min),  Mathew Rusike (Abbas Amidu, 46min), Khama Billiat (Simba Sithole, 75min), Knowledge Musona.

Botswana: Noah Maposa (Kabelo Dambe, 80min), Mmusa Ohilwe, Pako Lekgari, Ndiyapo Letsholathebe, Mompati Thuma, Ofentse Nato, Joel Mogorosi, Alphonse Modisaotsile (Lesego Galenamotlhale 80min), Tebogo Sembowa (Ntesang Simanyama, 66min), Mogakolodi Ngele (Jackie Mothatego, 71min), Lemponye Tshireletso.

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