Warriors remain top

Zimbabwe..................................(1) 1
DR Congo...................................(1) 1

HARARE - It was not the result Zimbabweans had hoped for but the Warriors put in a good shift during yesterday’s draw against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to remain on course to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.

The Warriors got their goal from Khama Billiat early in the match while defender Teenage Hadebe scored an own goal past goalkeeper George Chigova to equalise for the visitors.

Zimbabwe remain top of Group G with eight points from four matches while the DRC are now on five points.

Liberia and Congo are the other two teams in the group and were in action last night during a late kick-off in Monrovia.

The Warriors are in a good position to qualify for the 2019 Afcon finals to be held in Cameroon next June-July as they need just to win one of the two remaining matches in the group against Liberia (away) and Congo at home.

Yesterday, most of the fans had not even entered the venue or settled down in their seats when Zimbabwe took a second minute lead through Billiat.

Straight from the kick-off, Warriors winger Talent Chawapihwa ran menacingly at the Leopards’ defence on the right side.

The Baroka winger beat his markers before sending in a low cross into the danger area where Knox Mutizwa applied a miscued touch.

Fortunately for the home side, Billiat had continued with his run to the far post where he bundled the ball home to spark wild celebrations from the fans.

After the frantic start, the Warriors eased up on the tempo while the Leopards tried to regroup following the early setback.

Mutizwa had the ball in the back of the net after 22 minutes after turning in a cross from Billiat but the Kaizer Chiefs forward had been flagged offside in the build-up.

Moments later, the visitors were level with probably their first real attack of the match.

Jacques Maghoma combined with Ajon Issama Mpeko on the left with the latter sending in an in-swinging cross from the left.

The swerve on the cross was wicked and resulted in defender Hadebe directing the ball past his own goalkeeper George Chigova under challenge from Benik Afobe.

Prior to the equaliser, Chigova seemed to have been struggling with an injury he had picked up in the reverse fixture in Kinshasa at the weekend.

Had he been 100 percent fit, Chigova would probably had come off his line to back up his defenders and deal with Mpeko’s cross.

The Warriors number one was replaced by Edmore Sibanda minutes after conceding the equaliser.

After the setback, Zimbabwe stepped up the gear as they sought to regain the lead.

Just after the half hour mark, captain Ovidy Karuru found space on the right side before sending in a low cross into the box.

Lucky for the DRC, there were no green shirts that had anticipated Karuru’s cross evading the DRC defenders and the chance was not utilised.

In the second half, it was a cagey affair between the two sides as they sought the winning goal.

Zimbabwe had good chances from set pieces but on both occasions, Billiat and Sibanda sent their efforts over the bar.

At the other end, Yannick Bolasie started to get a lot of possession in dangerous areas where he could hurt the Warriors.

However, some dogged defending from Hadebe and Kevin Moyo meant the scores remained level.

Zimbabwe resume their Afcon qualification campaign with a trip to Monrovia to face Liberia next month.

A win in that match for coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s side would seal qualification for the first Afcon tournament that will feature 24 teams up from the usual 16 participants.

TEAMS: George Chigova (Edmore Sibanda 27m), Kevin Moyo, Teenage Hadebe, Tendayi Darikwa, Ronald Pfumbidzayi, Marshall Munetsi, Marvelous Nakamba, Ovidy Karuru (Rodwell Chinyengetere 80m), Khama Billiat, Knox Mutizwa, Talent Chawapihwa (Terrence Dzvukamanja 89m)

DRC: Antony Mossi Ngawi, Ajon Issama Mpeko, Jordan Ikoko, Christian Nekadio, Marcel Tisserand, Chancel Mbemba, Fabrice Ngoma, Jacques Maghoma, Benik afobe, Yannick Bolasie, Cedrick Bakambu         

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