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By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE left themselves with an uphill task in their bid to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon after being held to a goalless draw by lowly Botswana in their opening Group H match at the National Sports Stadium on Friday.
After their next opponents Zambia received a 5-0 hammering in Algeria on Thursday, the Warriors had a golden opportunity to put themselves in a strong position ahead of the second match in Lusaka on Tuesday.
The Joey Antipas-coached side however never looked like scoring all evening as they struggled to create any meaningful scoring opportunities against a stubborn Botswana which clearly had done its homework.
It was an utterly disappointing performance by the Warriors as they struggled from start to finish, despite having the backing of a vociferous home crowd that had turned up in their numbers for a rare night match in Harare.
The signs were there from the onset as Botswana enjoyed the better of the midfield exchanges.
Zimbabwe’s first real opportunity came in the 16th minute when Mutizwa’s low shot flashed just wide of the right hand post.
Skipper Knowledge Musona, who has been struggling for game time in Belgium, looked short of competitive match fitness. The Anderlecht forward however created two good opportunities in the first half with his dipping long range free-kick forcing the Botswana goalkeeper to tip the ball over the net on the half hour mark before another long range screamer just before the break sailed over the bar.
Zimbabwe survived a scare early in the second half as Botswana’s Thalero Molebats failed to connect a dangerous low cross from the six yard box with goalminder Elvis Chipezeze beaten.
The Warriors almost scored immediately afterwards when left back Ronald Pfumbidzai shot straight at the goalkeeper from close range.
Even though the Warriors continued to dominate possession, they hardly troubled the Batswana defenders as they struggled with their rhythm and passing before resorting to long balls upfront.
Antipas later introduced winger Kuda Mahachi and striker Prince Dube late in the match.
Even though they brought in some much needed urgency, it was a little too late as Botswana held on for a crucial point.
The result leaves Zimbabwe needing nothing short of victory against Zambia in Lusaka on Tuesday to get their campaign back on track.
Zimbabwe: E Chipezeze, I Nekati, A Mudimu, T Hadebe, R Pfumbidzai, M Munetsi, M Nakamba, O Karuru (K Mahachi, 78), Khama Billiat, K Musona, K Mutizwa (P Dube, 81)
Botswana: G Gaugangwe, K Dambe, K Seakanyeng, K Tshifino, K Kobe (T Ramallapen,70), M Gaolaolwe, M Johane (L Thireletso, 51), O Ratanang, S Mafuro, T Dithakwe, T Molebats(M Dilshap, 63)