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Warriors stage comeback to reach final

Chipolopolo had an early advantage in the shoot-out after Patson Daka scored the first penalty and Musona missed for the Warriors.

Zimbabwe (2)2

Zambia (2)2

Zimbabwe won 6 – 5 on penalties

Goalkeeper Donovan Bernard was the hero as the Warriors bounced back from two goals down to beat rivals Zambia after a penalty shootout to qualify for the finals of the four-nation tournament at Bingu National Stadium in Malawi yesterday.

The Norman Mapeza-coached side suffered an early set back after Zambia captain Stoppila Sunzu and Clatous Chama gave Chipolopolo a two-goal advantage inside the first 19 minutes.

But England-based striker Macauley Bonne pulled a goal back in the 26th minute before Walter Musona beat the halftime whistle to restore parity.

Sunzu would turn villain for Zambia after he missed the crucial penalty which lost coach Avram Grant’s men the match as Botswana based attacker Daniel Musendami blasted the winning kick past Toaster Nsabata.

Chipolopolo had an early advantage in the shoot-out after Patson Daka scored the first penalty and Musona missed for the Warriors.

However, Emmanuel Banda and Nsabata had their spot kicks saved along with Zimbabwe’s Divine Lunga while Gerald Takwara scored to keep the scores level on one apiece after three kicks.

Gift Zawadi, Chama, Golden Mashata and Benedict Chepeshi added to the Zambia tally as did Tino Kadewere, Marshall Munetsi, Andy Rinomhota and Benard before the Zimbabwean goalkeeper made a smart low save to deny Sunzu.

Msendami then scored the decisive penalty for the Warriors to bring to an end what was an exciting encounter between the two neighbours.

Mapeza named a dream starting lineup with Msendami making his warriors debut while Bonne made his first competitive debut for Zimbabwe since playing friendly matches against Lesotho and Zambia seven years ago.

Belgium-based Munashe Garan’anga started the match along with Teenage Hadebe in the heart of defence while there was also room for Munetsi, Rinomhota, Kadewere and Jordan Zemura who plies trade in Italy.

Benard and Musona were the two local-based players who made the first eleven.

Zambia did not waste time to take control of the match after taking a first minute lead through a headed goal by Sunzu from a freekick before the Warriors started pushing forward in search of an equalizer.

 Musona had a chance to draw the Warriors level with a freekick on the edge of the box but he blasted straight into the wall after a quarter of an hour.

Moments later Gamphani Lungu shot tamely at Benard after being sent through by Daka before Chama scored the goal of the match, curling it beautifully into the top corner from outside the box.

The scoreline was not a fair reflection of the game as Zimbabwe dominated the exchanges and it was not long before they were rewarded.

A livewire Msendami did some lovely work on the right side before sending through a brilliant low cross which was steered into the empty net by Bonne who had ghosted between two Zambian defenders.

Just as it looked like Zambia would take a sender lead to the break, some quick thinking from Garan’anga to set off Musona with a long ball from a freekick from the center of the pitch saw the Warriors level the scores in the 43rd minute.

Musona just needed to control and cooly slot past Lawrence Mulenga who kept goal for Zambia before he was substituted for Nsabata late on.

The Warriors were the stronger of the two sides in the second half with Rinonhota and Munetsi bossing the midfield while Kadewere had arguably his best match in Zimbabwe colours, being a menace on the right side of attack.

Munetsi from range, Bonne and Kadewere had opportunities to give Zimbabwe the lead in the early stages of the second half but failed to find the target.

Zambia gained control of the match in the final quarter of the game but could not create clear scoring opportunities.

Kadewere thought he had done enough to win the game for Zimbabwe 12 minutes before the end with a scuffed shot that took a deflection after he was fed by Bonne but Mulenga managed to adjust and kick the ball out for a corner kick.

Takwara could also have won the match for Zimbabwe in the 85th minute when he rose highest to meet Musona’s corner kick but he watched in disbelief as his header whizzed past the upright post.

Young midfielder Junior Makunike made his debut late in the game while Lunga was also a late substitute for Zimbabwe.

The highly entertaining match had to be decided in a penalty shootout.

The Warriors will play the winner of the other semifinal pitting hosts Malawi against Kenya on Tuesday.

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