By Ellina Mhlanga
Zimbabwe’s Mighty Warriors were left kicking themselves after they went down to Zambia in the final round of the Africa Women Cup of Nations soccer qualifiers yesterday at Rufaro to bow out of this year’s tournament.
The Mighty Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the first leg in Lusaka last Wednesday and yesterday they were the first to score in the 45th minute through Erina Jeke.
But they could not hold on to the lead with Zambia coming back a better side in the last half of the game and Hellen Chanda equalised for her side in the 54th minute from Barbra Banda’s pass.
Banda then scored the visitors second goal with four minutes to go, taking Zambia through to the finals set for November 17 to December 1 in Ghana on away goals rule after the match ended 2-2 on aggregate. Mighty Warriors coach Sithethelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda blamed their defeat on the lapse of concentration.
“We played well. But I believe we let in soft goals, especially the second one which came as a result of some loss of concentration at the back and the defence failed to track the scorer of which we knew in terms of pace they (Zambia) possess much better explosive pace than us. But we failed to track that goalscorer and we were punished for it.
“And at the end of the day we have lost and we are out of the competition and it’s congratulations to the Zambians . . . We wish them all the best in Ghana,” said Sibanda. It was an unfortunate day for the Mighty Warriors after Emmaculate Msipa, who had come in for Erina Jeke in the 65th minute, had to be taken off the pitch on a stretcher after she collided with Chanda and could not continue with the game.
She was replaced by Daisy Kaitano.
Sibanda said that also affected their game plan.
They then clashed again in 2016 and Zimbabwe were the better side, emerging winners to qualify for Cameroon and had hoped to return to the continental tournament when they hosted their arch-rivals at Rufaro yesterday in the second leg of the last round qualifier.
Zambia’s coach Bruce Mwape was pleased with the outcome and attributed their success to some changes to the team.
(Zimbabwe 2, Zambia 2 on aggregate. Zambia qualify on away goals rule)
Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1) 1
Zambia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0)2