By Sports Reporter
IN-FORM Tanzania-based striker Prince Dube rose from the bench to score a precious equaliser with his first touch and rescue an important point for the Warriors against African champions Algeria in a crucial 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Group H qualifier at the National Sports Stadium on Monday.
The Warriors were trailing 1-2 with eight minutes to go when Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic went for broke by introducing the free-scoring Dube for defender Tendayi Darikwa in search of a goal.
And the decision proved to be a stroke of genius after the 23-year-old forward ghosted from the blind side to score with a low right footed shot after a well taken corner by skipper Knowledge Musona.
Earlier it had seemed like the Warriors were on course to suffer another defeat.
Just like in the reverse fixture in Algiers four days ago, the Warriors got off to a promising start, restricting the Algerians to very few clear cut chances before losing concentration towards the end of the first half when they allowed their opponents to capitalise on their defensive lapses.
After a solid opening 30 minutes defensively, the Warriors defenders were caught napping as Algeria took the lead after 34 minutes through a close range header by forward Andy Delort, who had been left unmarked inside the box.
The Warriors went further behind a four minutes later with the Algerians’ skipper Riyad Mahrez dancing past debutant Adam Chicksen before firing past an exposed Talbert Shumba in goal for Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe almost pulled one back three minutes before halftime but Musona’s well taken free kick came off the cross bar in the 42nd minute.
The Warriors skipper however made amends almost immediately when Tino Kadewere won another free kick on the edge of the box which the Warriors skipper brilliantly curled another free kick to give the hosts a glimmer of hope.
Musona almost pulled the Warriors level in injury time of the first half but his volley after a cross from Jordan Zemura sailed over the bar with the Algerians’ goalkeeper beaten.
Zimbabwe started the second half positively, with coach Logarusic making four substitutions, introducing the quartet of Khama Billiat, Ovidy Karuru, Kuda Mahachi and Divine Lunga for David Moyo, Jordan Zemura, Tafadzwa Rusike and Adam Chicksen.
The Warriors had dropped the quartet after a dismal performance in Algeria, but their introduction in the second half on Monday is just what the home side needed.
After dominating the exchanges early in the second half, the Warriors were almost rewarded with the equaliser in the 55th minute but the Algerians’ goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi pulled off a brilliant reflex serve to tip over Tino Kadewere’s thumping close range header.
Kadewere also missed an open goal from close range five minutes later after being teed up by Musona on the right, but his low shot just missed the outside of the left post.
Zimbabwe continued to create the better chances in the match. Musona could have done much better after he found himself unmarked on the right but his first time shot from Mahachi’s cross went wide in the 71st minute.
With the match seemingly slipping away from the Warriors, the introduction of Dube shifted the momentum towards the home side after he scored from his first touch to convert a corner from Musona eight minutes from fulltime.
Zimbabwe: T. Shumba; T. Darikwa (P Dube, 81), J. Dzingai, T. Hadebe, A. Chicksen (D Lunga, 46); J. Zemura (K Mahachi, 46), T. Rusike (O Karuru, 46), M. Nakamba, K. Musona; D. Moyo (K Billiat, 46), T. Kadewere.
Algeria: R. Mbolhi (GK), R. Halaimia, A. Mandi, D. Benlamri, R. Bensebaini, I. Bennacer ( M Abeid, 79), A. Guedioura, S. Feghouli ( H Belkebla, 68), R. Mahrez (c) ( A Ounas, 80), S. Benrahma (Y Brahimi, 73), A. Delort (B Bounedjah, 68)