MARVELOUS NAKAMBA’S profile continued to grow when the Zimbabwean international earned more UEFA Champions League stripes after featuring for the entire match in his team Club Brugge’s draw with Thierry Henry’s Monaco in Belgium last night.
Nakamba made his Champions League debut when coming off the bench in their 3-1 loss to Atletico Madrid in Spain.
The Warriors midfielder, who is gradually finding his form after recovering from an injury that needed specialist treatment in Spain, lasted the entire game as Club Brugge came from behind to force a 1-1 draw against the French side.
Nakamba, an integral part of the Warriors side that is on the verge of securing a place at the 2019 African Cup of Nations, even had a chance late on to grab his maiden Champions League goal.
But the former Bantu Rovers man failed to direct his shot struck on the run after a Monaco clearance had fallen onto his path. An injury-hit Monaco failed to give Henry his first win as a head coach following last night’s draw.
Moussa Sylla raised hopes of Monaco ending an 11-match win-less streak by opening the scoring just after the half-hour mark at the Jan Breydel Stadium, but Wesley struck for the Belgian champions to secure a point.
According to reports from Belgium, the principality club have now also gone 11 Champions League games without a victory since their thrilling 6-3 aggregate triumph over Borussia Dortmund in the 2016-17 quarter-finals.
Henry, who took over from the sacked Leonardo Jardim earlier this month, saw his young side put in a spirited display despite being depleted by a raft of injuries, although the result leaves both sides facing elimination from Group A.
Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid lead the way, five points clear of Monaco and Brugge, ahead of their meeting at Signal Iduna Park in a later game last night.
Monaco will now hope it is a case of third time lucky under Henry when they host Dijon on Saturday, looking to drag themselves out of the Ligue 1 relegation zone.
But for Nakamba every Champions League outing is worth the experience and should also please his Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa.
While Nakamba continued to square off against some of the world’s best stars in the biggest club knock-out competition on the globe, his Warriors teammate George Chigova had his own reasons to smile.
This is because the big Warriors goalkeeper left a Polokwane medical centre a hugely relieved man after a scan on his injured knee revealed that he was out of danger but would be sidelined for two weeks.
The Polokwane City man twisted his knee while featuring for Zimbabwe in their 1-1 draw against Democratic Republic of Congo at the National Sports Stadium last week.
There had been genuine fears that Chigova would need surgery and could have possibly been ruled out of one of the Warriors’ next Nations Cup assignment away to Liberia next month.
But those fears were allayed yesterday after doctors told Chigova that, although he might still be in pain, he is out of danger and would not need to be operated on.
The 27-year-old goalkeeper told The Herald from his base in Polokwane yesterday that despite being relieved that his injury was not as bad as had initially been feared, he was still disappointed at having to miss club duties with Polokwane in South Africa.
Chigova an imposing and yet talented goalkeeper who stands 1.95m tall could only last 30 minutes of the Warriors action before he signalled for a change with fellow big goal-minder Edmore Sibanda being sent on to replace him.
He has already missed Polokwane’s Telkom Knock-out first round assignment which came soon after the international break. Polokwane for whom which his side lost to coach Kaitano Tembo’s SuperSport United 6-5 on penalties.
Harold Ndlovu, who pulled a number of good serves, stood between the sticks for Polokwane City. The Warriors Number One, however, did not have any kind words for the poor state of the National Sports Stadium, which appears to be suffering from neglect.
In fact, the deteriorating state of the pitch which has received widespread condemnation from the Warriors had a big part in contributing to Chigova’s injury as he stumbled on a hall on that seemed to be concealed by the long grass.
Chigova said the poor state of playing field had denied the Warriors a chance to maximise on home ground advantage when the Leopards came to town.
The Warriors had won 2-1 on the artificial turf at Kinshasa’s Stade de Martyrs. “I did the scan and the results came back and they have said there is no need for an operation. It’s just a bruised bone on the knee muscle so I will be out for 14 days only.
“But it feels bad to go out injured and missing games but you know it’s part of football we can’t do anything and I have to focus on the rehab and make sure that I come back strong again,’’ Chigova said.
Chigova urged those in charge of the stadium to consider the players’ requirements too. “The state of the pitch was so bad the grass was too big, you couldn’t even pass the ball properly and it was a big problem for us and it was too bumpy.
“I think if they can cut it, it can be better. Against DRC it definitely worked against us . . . it is denied us the advantage because we could not play our normal game and in the end it was just 50/50 with DRC.
“When the grass is too big it’s always going to be soft underneath so it’s easy for players to have that kind of injuries like I had,’’ Chigova said.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare also added his voice of condemnation on the National Sports Stadium pitch and revealed that ZIFA technical director Wilson Mutekede had prior to the big match even raised concerns with the stadium manger.
Mpandare however, said they were still shocked to note that there had been improvements made to the pitch including trimming the grass despite Mutekede pointing all that out to the stadium authorities.
“It’s in a pathetic state and the stadium authorities are endangering players both in the league and the national team.
“We were playing at home but the pitch was too heavy for our players considering the shift they had put in the away game it became difficult for the team to perform to its expectations. “George was injured because of the bad pitch and we were forced to make an early substitution.
“What surprises us is the TD tried in vain to convince the ground manager to cut the grass,’’ Mpandare said.