By Sports Reporter
Senegal …(0) 1
AN injury-time penalty by Liverpool star Sadio Mane denied the Warriors a famous point against Africa’s top-ranked nation after they succumbed to a morale-sapping defeat against Senegal.
They were playing in their first match in Group B of the African Cup of Nations Monday.
After gallantly keeping the star-studded Senegalese side at bay for 90 minutes and four minutes of injury time, the Warriors appeared on course for a famous draw against one of the pre-tournament favourites at the Stade Kouekong in the Cameroonian city of Bafoussam.
However, all their hard work was undone on the stroke of full-time when Kelvin Madzongwe handled the ball inside the box resulting in Senegal being awarded a spot-kick right.
The mistake allowed Mane, who had cut a lone figure for long periods in the match after wasting a couple of good chances in the first half, to step up and send Petros Mhari the wrong way.
The penalty was a cruel finish to the match for the Warriors and particularly for Mhari, who appeared to have done everything to win the man-of-the-match award after a brilliant performance in front of the goal.
Mhari was impressive in the first half where he almost single-handedly kept the Warriors in the match.
The Warriors got off to a rather jittery start, playing second fiddle to Senegal, who dominated possession and created better clear-cut opportunities.
Mane came close to opening the scoring with a trademark bust into the box from the left, but his low, somewhat scuffed shot was well saved by Mhari. Earlier Bayern Munich star Bouna Sarr had almost opened the scoring with a long-range from outside the box
Zimbabwe had to wait until the 20th minute to get their first shot with skipper Knowledge Musona’s long-range shot not troubling the goalkeeper.
Saar, however, almost scored from the very next move with his shot from an acute angle narrowly missing the inside of Mhari’s left post.
Zimbabwe, however, grew in confidence towards the end of the match and had a good opportunity to score when they were awarded a free-kick just outside the Senegal box, but they failed to utilise the chance when Musona his chipped effort went over the bar.
After a jittery opening 30 minutes, Zimbabwe started to find their feet towards the end of the opening half with both Kundai Benyu and Bruce Kangwa creating good opportunities before the break.
Just like the first half Senegal started strongly and almost broke the deadlock when Pape Abou Cisserises headed wide after rising to meet a cross from a corner kick.
Mhari was again the hero, producing a brilliant save to cut off a dangerous low cross that would have left Mane with a tap in after a counter-attacking move.
Zimbabwe could have Zimbabwe had a golden opportunity in the 85th minute when Wadi directed Musona’s cross from a free-kick straight at the Senegal goalkeeper.
With a precious point seemingly in sight for the Warriors, they conceded a penalty in injury time.