Angola 2-0 Zimbabwe
[Match ends 3-3 on aggregate but Angola win on away goals rule]
MANUCHO Goncalves scored twice inside the opening six minutes as Angola ended Zimbabwe's dream of a third Africa Cup of Nations final in Luanda on Sunday.
The Real Valladolid striker turned in a corner kick and then nodded in a second unmarked from a cross as Zimbabwe – leading 3-1 from the first leg – got off to the worst possible start.
Zimbabwe had no handle on the former Manchester United forward who could have bagged a hat-trick after he found himself in acres of space from another set-piece on the hour mark but poked over with his left foot.
The Warriors – promised huge incentives including $10,000 cash and housing stands worth $25,000 for each player if they qualified – went into the match as red-hot favourites.
Rahman Gumbo would have emphasised the importance of keeping things tight in the opening half hour with the Angolans sure to come at the Warriors with all their attacking might – personified by the slippery Manucho.
But his pre-match team talk went out of the window after just four minutes as Manucho reacted quickest to a corner to beat Ariel Sibanda.
Barely two minutes later, Djalma Campos left Noel Kaseke in his wake on the left and crossed for Manucho who took a great position between Esrom Nyandoro and Carlington Nyadombo to score with a firm header.
Zimbabwe were rocking. They now needed to score to re-instate their advantage but they huffed and puffed without threatening Lama’s goal.
Returning veteran midfielder Tinashe Nengomasha, Archford Gutu and Vusa Nyoni were Zimbabwe’s biggest liabilities in midfield, failing to stamp their authority and starving Cuthbert Malajila of ball supply wide right.
Malajila had a rare sighter of goal after 15 minutes from a Khama Billiat cross but failed to connect. Knowledge Musona then saw a close range effort saved by Lama.
Billiat then had a shot of his own after 30 minutes but it failed to trouble the Angolan goalkeeper.
As the second half got underway, Gumbo pulled out Vusa Nyoni and threw in Kingston Nkatha hoping to add a new attacking dimension – but Zimbabwe were too imprecise in their passing and too impatient in the pursuit of a goal to build any meaningful momentum.
Edward Sadomba and Abbas Amidu joined the action late on from the bench but Zimbabwe could not carve out a clear opportunity in front of goal.
It was Angola who almost twice went ahead. Mateus Galiano left Onismor Bhasera sprawled on the ground crying for a foul and scampered into the box but Sibanda dived low to keep his shot out.
From a free kick on 62 minutes, the ball dropped for Manucho in the box. The striker appeared caught by surprise and he hurried his shot with the left foot, sending it skywards with Sibanda completely exposed.
As the final whistle approached, Angola used every tactic in the book to run the clock. Their players tumbled all over the pitch – including their goalkeeper who went down, rather embarrassingly, clutching his ankle.
Zimbabwe players felt cheated when Kenyan referee Sylvester Kirwa added just three minutes injury time. The protests went on at the final whistle as Angolan police stepped in.
The defeat is a huge blow for Gumbo, who took over mid-way through the campaign in place of Norman Mapeza, who was forced to stand down following match fixing claims.
A dejected Gumbo said at the final whistle: "I think we lost the plot in Harare when we conceded that goal in the first leg. We needed to avoid an early goal, but we then conceded two. That unsettled us and we were never able to put our stamp on the game."
Angola go through to the Nations Cup finals to be hosted by South Africa early next year.
Zimbabwe: A Sibanda, N Kaseke, O Bhasera, C Nyadombo, E Nyandoro (c), V Nyoni (Nkhatha, 46th min), T Nengomasha, A Gutu, K Musona (D Mukamba, 90th min), K Billiat, C Malajila (E Sadomba, 67th min)
Angola: Lama, Lunginho, Danny (Billic, 76th min), Kivuvu, Dede (Manuel 70th min), Djalma, Manucho (c), Zuela (Bastos, 21st min), Miguel, Pirolito, Mateus
Match officials (all from Kenya): Sylvester Kirwa, Elias Waimalwa, Peter Keirini