TEN-MEN Zimbabwe Warriors took firm control of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group G qualifiers following a shock 2-1 win over a star-studded Democratic Republic of Congo at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa on Saturday evening.
The hosts, buoyed by a vociferous home crowd and parading some of their finest players plying their trade in some of Europe’s top leagues, were overwhelming favourites to win at home ahead of the return leg in Harare on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe however turned the tables on their hosts with a clinical performance to claim all three points and duly remain unbeaten after three rounds of fixtures while enjoying a healthy three point lead at the top.
Bloemfontein Celtic left back Ronald Pfumbidzai gave the Warriors a surprise lead against the run of play with a beautifully volleyed goal in the 21st minute to silence the hosts who had dominated the early exchanges.
Warriors captain Knowledge Musona duly doubled the Warriors lead in the 69th minute before receiving his marching orders.
The Zimbabwe captain was sent for an early shower 15 minutes from time following a cynical challenge which resulted in a second yellow card and will miss Tuesday’s return match.
The hosts got a consolation goal from substitute English championship side Aston Villa star striker Yannick Bolasie in injury time.
The win meant Sunday Chidzambwa’s men became the first team to beat the DRC in their backyard in four years. They lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast back in 2014.
The hosts dominated proceedings from start to finish, but the Warriors took their opportunities and defended with great determination throughout.
DRC had several chances to breach the Zimbabwe defence but were wasteful in front of goal with China-based forward Cedric Bakambu the main culprit.
The former Villarreal forward was played through on goal by Gael Kakuta just before half time but fired wide with the goal at his mercy before squandering another glorious opportunity in the 83rd minute.
The victory puts the Warriors on the verge of qualification to the 2019 finals to be hosted by Cameroon as they lead the standings with seven points from three matches while DRC and Congo sit second and third respectively with four points.
Should Zimbabwe complete a double over DRC in Tuesday night’s encounter, they will all but have one foot at the finals.