Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
JUST two positive touches out of his eight encounters with the ball helped substitute Knox Mutizwa produce his best performance in the Warriors colours at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
The Golden Arrows striker was desperate to put behind a forgettable display in the 2022 World Cup preliminary round, first leg tie, which the Warriors lost 0-1 in Djibouti.
Mutizwa was one of the fall guys after missing a sitter in that match.
But, after being thrown into the fray for the jittery and ineffective Clive Augusto, he came good on the big stage. After the hosts won a free-kick, just outside the box, and with time not on the hosts’ side, the expectation was that Khama Billiat would step up and fire towards goal.
But, instead, it was Mutizwa who took responsibility as he fired a bullet, which took a slight deflection off a defender, and arrowed its way home.
That gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead, in a match they needed to win by two clear goals.
And, when it looked very likely Zimbabwe would become the first team to be eliminated by Somalia in the history of the World Cup qualifiers, Mutizwa again provide the magical touch.
Receiving the ball from the midfield on the right flank, he paced down the flank before cutting in to pick Billiat with a crossfield pass.
The latter then completed the task with a beauty to give the Warriors the victory and a place in the group stages of the World Cup qualifiers.
And, Mutizwa, was a happy man after the match.
“I am happy with this performance, especially given the way we had to qualify for the group stages,’’ he said.
“I am happy for the team and the country, otherwise, this is one of my best performances for my country.’’
While Mutizwa emerged the hero of this show, it wasn’t the case for Teenage Hadebe who once again had to deal with the National Sports Stadium demons that appear to stalk him.
Just over a year ago, Hadebe was the fall guy as his own goal gave the Democratic Republic of Congo a point in that 1-1 draw in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers.
Zimbabwe needed a win to seal their place in Egypt but they had to sweat in the eventful campaign where they only secured their place in the last tie against Congo Brazzaville.
And that ghost appeared to haunt the lanky defender yet again as he gifted the Ocean Stars the goal which, for once, appeared to have sent them into the group stages of the tournament.
“It is part of the game but it can’t always be like that,’’ said Hadebe.
‘‘I made the mistake after some communication breakdown involving me and captain (Alec Mudimu) but it’s part and parcel of the game.
‘‘I will strive to do much better in the next assignments.’’
The Turkey-based central defender found himself at the wrong place and wrong time.
An intended clearance by Mudimu bounced off him and gave Omar Abdulla Mohamed the freedom of the giant stadium to score what appeared to be a killer goal for the visitors.
However, Hadebe, until that moment, was having a good game.