26 January 2014

Zimbabwe/Mali: Gallant Warriors Outclass Mali

Photo: CAF
Warriors defender gave Malian defenders a hard time

The Warriors carved their way into the history books when they stormed into the semi-finals of the on-going Chan tournament with a clinical display against Mali at the Greenpoint last night. Goals by How Mine striker Simba Sithole and flying winger Kudakwashe Mahachi in either half of the match not only ensured the Warriors' passage but did so in style, sending warning shots to fellow finalists that the Ian Gorowa-coached side mean business.

Coming into the match on the backdrop of a questionable goal-scoring return, the Warriors defended their unbeaten run against odds and will only point to a last-gasp goal by the West Africans as the only blemish of the night.

The Warriors raced into a deserved lead with just 11 minutes on the clock when Sithole, who spent the week with staples on the head meant to heal a cut he had suffered in the win against Burkina Faso, opened his Chan 2014 account.

Sithole latched on to a speculative clearance by his captain, Partson Jaure, shielded the ball from the physically imposing Souleymane Konate before placing the ball wide of a hapless Soumalia Diakete for the Warriors' opener.

Mahachi, who is having a tournament of his life here, then scored what would turn out to be the match-winning goal 10 minutes into the second half after the Warriors had endured periods of sustained pressure.

Mahachi received a pass from Sithole on the left and dribbled past the entire defence in the box and with glory in sight, the usually weak skilful winger sliced home in spite of strong physical challenge to double the Warriors' advantage.

The defence, which had hitherto stood firm claiming three clean sheets, finally gave in when a lapse in concentration allowed the ever-threatening Hamidou Sinayoko to head in on the stroke of full time.

The victory means Gorowa, who only last week had made history by becoming the first coach to lead the Warriors into the quarterfinals of a continental tournament, further added another leaf by leading the team into the semi-finals.

Gorowa's men were by far the better side and as early as the seventh minute could have taken the lead when they won a corner after pressing the West Africans, but failed to punish allowing them to clear.

After the Warriors' opener Mali pressed in search of a leveller, but the Warriors defended well with the midfield trio of Danny Phiri, Peter Moyo and Ali Sadiki featuring prominently at the back.

But they would not forget their glory hunt for long and in the 24th minute Moyo collected deep in defence, utilised acres of space in the middle and took a decent crack at goal from 25 metres out, but an alert Diakite gloved it over the bar.

The Warriors began the second stanza on the back foot and soaked in the pressure for eight minutes with their hitherto impenetrable barrier marshalled by Jaure standing tall.

But as the Malians hoped for an equaliser, Mahachi weaved his magic from a Sithole pass and sent the vociferous Warriors fans into delirium.

Eight minutes after the hour mark the Warriors could have been punished with the skipper out receiving treatment.

Abdoulaye Sissoko flushed a cross across the face of the Warriors goal, but second half substitute Sinayoko arrived just late on the blind side to slide it in.

As the Warriors hung on for the confirmation of their place in the semis, the Malians pulled one back, but it was a case of too little, too late.


Zimbabwe: George Chigova, Eric Chipeta, Patson Jaure, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Milton Ncube, Danny Phiri, Peter Moyo, Ali Sadiki (Tawanda Muparati, 78th), Masimba Mambare, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Simba Sithole (Nelson Maziwisa, 70th)

Mali: Diakite Soumaila, Souleymane Konate, Ibourahima Sidibe, Ousmane Keita, Abdoulaye Sissoko, Doumbia Cherif, Lassana Diarra, Adama Traore, Samake Issaka, Yaya Samake, Oumar Kone. Substitutes: H. Sinayoko for L. Diarra 57', I. Traoré for A. Traoré 61', M. Sidibé for Y. Samake 74'.

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