Zimbabwe 1-0 Burundi
[Zimbabwe go through on away goals rule after fixture ends 2-2 on aggregate]
A HUGE question mark hanging over his commitment to his country, Knowledge Musona made a case for his patriotism as his winner fired Zimbabwe into the third round of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on Sunday.
The Hoffenheim striker faced accusations in mid-week that his heart was not in it after allegedly being seen meeting the former ZIFA CEO Henrietta Rushwaya – a poisonous figure in the game after she was kicked out for match fixing.
But already trailing Burundi 2-1 from the first leg, Rahman Gumbo knew Zimbabwe needed to score on Sunday to avoid Armageddon, having seen the country’s bid to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals almost dashed at the first hurdle.
Wisely, Gumbo elected to start with Musona, who had scored Zimbabwe’s last two goals – in the 2-1 defeat to Cape Verde in October last year and the 2-1 defeat to Burundi in February.
The Warriors thought they had found the breakthrough in the 15th minute when Musona broke free on the right and delivered a low cross for Rodwell Chinyengetere who reacted late.
Winger Vusa Nyoni forced a save from a free kick, and the rebound fell invitingly for Oscar Machapa, but keeper Janvier Ndikumana produced a stunning reflex save to deny the Moroka Swallows man.
Gumbo would have feared the worst after 28 minutes when the Warriors were reduced to 10 men when Willard Katsande – who will now miss the next two games – was shown the red card for retaliation after he had been kicked.
But Musona had the National Sports Stadium on its feet eight minutes later after a quick exchange of passes with Khama Billiat ended with him slicing past Ndikumana.
Chances were few and far between in the second half with substitutes Takesure Chinyama, Denver Mukamba and Clive Kawinga all seeing action later as Gumbo tried to kill time and get over the line.
Zimbabwe will join 13 other qualifiers from the second round who will go into the hat with the 16 teams that qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals in the final round.
The 15 winners of the two-legged match-ups to be played in September and October will join hosts South Africa at the finals next February.
Gumbo was full of praise for his men who were under immense pressure from the fans to deliver. He was also critical of Gabonese referee Eric Otogo for missing the foul on Katsande, although he punished the midfielder for his reaction.
“Getting a red card after 30 minutes is a test for any team, no matter who your opponent is. I'm proud of how we kept our organisation after we went a man down. Now we have to see who we get in the draw,” said the FC Platinum coach.
T Kapini (cpt), O Machapa, O Bhasera, E Nyandoro, C Nyadombo,, T Nengomasha, W Katsande, K Billiat (Chinyama 66th min), V Nyoni, R Chinyengetere (Mukamba 68th min), K Musona (C Kawinga 88th min)
J Ndikumana, S Mbanza H Ndikumana (cpt), G Kaze, , K Niligiyamana, H Hakilimana, P Kwitera, F. Papy (L Mavugo 58’), C Amissi, F Ndayisaba, Y. Ndikumana