By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE suffered their first loss of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers after succumbing to a 3-1 defeat to Algeria in an entertaining Group H encounter at the 5 July 1962 Stadium (Stade Olympique 5 Juillet 1962) in Algiers on Thursday evening.
Although in the end, the Warriors were comfortably beaten by the reigning African champions who are now unbeaten in 21 matches, they were in no way disgraced as they put on a commendable performance.
Algeria opened the scoring just at the half hour mark with Baghdad Bounedjah scoring from a rebound after goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze had fumbled Sofiane Feghouli’s low long range shot back into play.
The hosts doubled their lead two minutes before halftime when Feghouli scored with a diving header from a brilliant cross by his captain Riyad Mahrez to leave the Warriors facing a heavy defeat at the break as the Algerians completed the half in complete control of the contest.
Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic replaced Chipezeze with Talbert Mashumba at the start of the second half
Tino Kadewere squandered a good opportunity to get the Warriors back in the game after shooting tamely at the goalkeeper after breaking clear on 55 minutes before Teenage Hadebe came close with a header a couple of minutes later.
The Warriors were made to rue the missed opportunities when Mahrez scored the Algerians’ third goal with a well taken shot on 67 minutes after dancing through Zimbabwe’s panicky defence with relative ease.
After missing a few clear cut chances, Kadewere finally scored the consolation goal for the Warriors 10 minutes from full-time as the contest ended 3-1 in favour of the hosts.
Algeria’s win meant they remain in control of Group H with nine points from three matches while the Warriors are second on four points.
Zambia is third on three points after collecting their first win of the qualifiers in a hard fought 2-1 win over Botswana in Lusaka earlier on Thursday.
The Warriors will feel they could have done better against the Algerians after starting off very disciplined and dangerous on set-pieces.
Although Algeria dominated the possession, Zimbabwe were able to create some good scoring chances.
Khama Billiat’s low close range shot from a tight angle was blocked by the Algerian goalkeeper as early as the third minute before Kadewere wasted a good opportunity after 16 minutes, heading Knowledge Musona’s delivery from a freekick from the left with the goalkeeper completely beaten.
Algeria also had their opportunities with defender Alec Mudimu producing ditch tackles to prevent Baghdad Bounedjah from taking a shot at goal after racing clear.
The Warriors were made to pay for not converting their set piece dominance into goals as Algeria scored on a counter-attack and then began to turn the screws towards halftime before taking complete control of the match.