It was yet another thrilling championship encounter at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday afternoon in Polokwane South Africa, as two Zambezi rivals which comprise of Zambia ‘chipolopolo’ and Zimbabwe ‘warriors’ battled off in the final of the 18th COSAFA tournament.
By Daniel Itai in South Africa
Chipolopolo were the first to draw blood from as early as the first minute proving their gusto for the COSAFA silverware which they last held a couple of years ago, but Zimbabwean goalkeeper George Chigova who was also the skipper of the team wouldn’t take any chances, taking two crucial saves within the first two minutes.
However, in the fourth minute the warriors responded to the memo courtesy of Tino Kadewere who intercepted a chipolopolo pass and put Zimbabwe on the lead.
Soon afterwards the warriors were in for another goal through a great build up from the back but Khama Billiat’s finish was deflected for a corner which the warriors failed to make use of.
After realizing what was at stake, the copper bullets quickly made their mark in the 8th minute courtesy of Lazarous Kambole. It wasn’t long before Zambia tried to cement their lead in the 21st minute but Zimbabwean defender Jameson Mukombwe wouldn’t have any of that.
Billiat once again had an outstanding chance but failed to hit the back of the net as his shot went over the bar.
For the last twenty minutes of the first half the warriors seemed to be in cruise control making it hard for the Zambians to have a grip on the ball.
Zimbabwe’s Devine Lunga was beginning to cause mayhems for the Zambian defense as a result of his crosses which fortunately for chipolopolo, did not bag anything.
Billiat got another chance yet again but failed to land the ball at the back of the net irrespective of a superb cross from Marshal Munetsi.
The first 45 minutes saw the two teams going to the break sharing spoils and their ball possession evenly matched with the warriors having more shots at goal.
The Zambian coach Beston Chambeshi must have imparted some meaningful words to his players as they came back for the second half exerting a different demeanor.
The warriors tried to pull back one soon after the start of the second half but the defense of the copper bullets wouldn’t have any of that.
The Zambians quickly took note of the frustrations that were now weighing on the warriors as a result of their futile attempts to convert their chances into goals.
As a result of this, the warriors were punished for their lack of composure as Kambole scored his brace in the 50th minute and enabled chipolopolo to be one hand shy from clinching the title.
After having implored almost every tactic to perhaps penetrate the defense of the Zambians the warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga decided to reshuffle the team by introducing new blood.
Regardless, the score board remained the same. Chidzambga tried again to bring two more substitutes but the result remained the same and the game was now beginning to reach its climax.
For many, the game was now done and dusted and for a moment it seemed as if chipolopolo had finally clinched the COSAFA silverware.
However, the warriors kept on fighting as their name suggests. The heavens finally opened for Tino Kadewere in the 91st minute and the warriors were now at par with the Zambians.
The goal by Kadewere was like a stumbling block to chipolopolo who were already midway celebrations. With both teams deadlocked the game went into extra time.
For Zimbabwe it was another fighting chance which they immaculately proved in the 98th minute courtesy of Billiat who resuscitated the hopes of the warriors of clinching the silverware.
The goal by Billiat seemed to have subverted the Zambians who soon found themselves once again at the mercy killing of Billiat in the 116th minute who in turn made it four putting the ultimate nail to the coffin. The final result ended Zimbabwe 4 Zambia 2.
For Chambeshi, it was a game they should have won had they remained unruffled. As for Chidzambga, it was a carpophagous victory and a good preparation for the 2019 AFCON tournament.
As a result of this conquest. the warriors now have six COSAFA titles and are the only team to have surpassed the four title mark of the COSAFA tournament.
Meanwhile, Lesotho managed to edge Madagascar by a goal to nil which enabled them to clinch their first ever bronze medal since the inception of the COSAFA tournament.