By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE were made to rue a golden opportunity to register their first victory against continental heavyweights Nigeria following a 1-1 draw against the former African champions in their 2026 World Cup qualification match at the Huye Stadium in Bature, Rwanda on Sunday.
Playing “at home” in Rwanda due to the poor state of stadiums in Zimbabwe, the homeless Warriors were looking for their first win of the qualifiers having played out a goalless draw in their group opener against the hosts on Wednesday.
The Beltmaar Brito-coached side appeared on course for a famous win against a disjointed Nigerian outfit as they took the lead through a stunning long range free-kick by Walter Musona in the 26th minute.
Zimbabwe were clearly the better side in the first half with solid displays in defence and midfield, where debutant England-born Cardiff City star Andy Rinomhota struck a formidable combination with Marvelous Nakamba and Marshall Munetsi.
Zimbabwe held on to their lead until the 65th minute when Nigeria equalised through substitute Kelechi Iheanacho.
After surviving a brief onslaught from the Nigerians, Zimbabwe finished the match strongly and had two glorious opportunities to seal the win.
The first chance fell to Teenage Hadebe in the 83rd minute but the USA-based defender was unable to hit the target after pouncing on a loose ball inside the box.
The best opportunity to collect all three points however fell to substitute Tanaka Shandirwa deep in addded time.
After being brilliantly set up by Marshall Munetsi’s layoff inside the penalty box, the gifted Dynamos midfielder, who had both time and space to pick his spot in front of a gapping goal, watched in horror as his effort sailed way over the bar.
In the end the two teams settled for a share of the spoils, although for Zimbabwe it will feel like two points dropped instead of a point gained.
After collecting two points in as many matches, Zimbabwe will be hoping to finally collect their first win when they host Lesotho in their next game in the World Cup qualifiers, in June next year.