Malawi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
ZDRAVKO LOGARUSIC waited for 10 months for his first assignment, in charge of the Warriors and, fittingly — just the chaos that preceded it — it’s a game he will rather quickly forget.
A drab goalless show against the Flames of Malawi in Blantyre yesterday was probably in sync with all the madness which had preceded a friendly international football match, blighted by a toxic combination of both confusion and uncertainty.
It’s unlikely Loga learnt anything from this game, which then defeats the whole purpose of having the match in the first place, and he returns here with more questions than answers.
To some, a goalless draw away from home possibly represents a fair result but, given where we want to be, and where we have come from, it still appears we keep taking two steps forward and 10 steps backwards.
In an era where we beat Zambia, in Lusaka in our last away match, this goalless draw represents a step backwards but Loga will have an alibi, and it’s hard to argue against him right now.
He never found time to prepare his men, many of the players he wanted for the assignment, including skipper Knowledge Musona, didn’t answer the call for duty, and some of those who featured yesterday will not play at all in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.
But Logarusic feels half loaf is better than nothing after leading the Warriors to a drab goalless draw against Malawi in an international friendly match at the Mpira stadium in Blantyre yesterday.
Logarusic, who was in charge of the team for the first time since his appointment nearly nine months ago, was happy to see his charges in action despite the subdued performances.
The Croatian had wanted to use the opportunity to work on his AFCON squad for the upcoming qualifiers against Algeria.
However, he was forced to work with a make-shift squad after most of the players that he had requested to come for the international friendly match could not be cleared by their foreign clubs for various reasons.
Despite the handicap, the coach was still relieved the Warriors were not humiliated by the Flames, who missed some good scoring opportunities on the artificial surface.
“I am happy with the result because we just had one training session together. I think five of the players did not train with the team. They just came in from different areas,” said Logarusic.
“This is good for me for as long as we don’t get injuries. Secondly, it allowed me to see some things about our team and thirdly Malawi surprised me because they are much stronger than I expected.”
The Warriors missed several key players and Kaizer Chiefs forward Khama Billiat was handed the arm-band in the absence of captain Musona.
Billiat, Teenage Hadebe, Devine Lunga, Alec Mudimu and Aston Villa holding midfielder Marvelous Nakamba were the only regular Warriors players that started the game yesterday.
Logarusic used 16 players in yesterday’s match, handing generous game-time to the likes of Tanaka Chinyahara, who showed some glimpses with his simple passing game, Takudzwa Chimwemwe of ambitious Zambian side Buildcon and Dynamos’ new signing King Nadolo.
Logarusic has not made it a secret that he would have wanted to assess the likes of Musona, Marshall Munetsi, Tino Kadewere, Tendayi Darikwa, Adam Chicksen, Jordan Zemura, Victor Kamhuka, Macauley Bonne, Kundai Benyu, Prince Dube and goalkeeper Martin Mapisa, but he is now likely to see them when they come back home for the back-to-back AFCON qualifier against Algeria next month.
The positive thing was that at least he managed to have a stage to see the team in action. The match hung in the balance for much of last week because of poor preparations but ZIFA managed to get their house in order and chartered a flight to Blantyre.
While many countries squeezed in two games during this window, Logarusic told reporters in Malawi that he was still grateful with the opportunity.
“We only had three players for the AFCON. The rest of the players were not in contention for the AFCON matches but I think one or two players will join the AFCON squad.
“For sure it was a good test because I also came to see other players because good players are not only in Europe. We also have good players playing in Africa. Now I saw few players that took my attention and we have to work with that,” said Logarusic
Malawi on their part managed to arrange two games as they prepare for the upcoming games against Burkina Faso. They played Zambia last week and yesterday coach Meck Mwase made five changes to the team that lost 0-1 to Chipolopolo.
The Flames, headlined by South Africa Premiership Golden Boot winner Gabadinho Mhango, also did not look like a finished product yet.
The Flames could have taken the lead but Chimwemwe Idana sent his effort over the bar with a yawning goal at his mercy after the Zimbabwe defence was caught in shambles in the 39th minute.
Then Orlando Pirates forward Mhango got the better of Hadebe inside the box late in the first half but he curled his effort just over with the badly exposed goalkeeper Talbert Shumba.
The Triangle goalkeeper was called to make a crucial point-blank save to deny substitute Richard Mbulu from close range after Zimbabwe were hit on the counter attack later in the second half.
Substitute Micious Mhone rattled the cross bar in added time after finding space unmarked inside the box. Logarusic believes they could have fared better with improved preparations.
“We made some tactical changes and then we had some periods of the game that we dominated. But then in the end Malawi had the chances to score,” said Logarusic.
Malawi: E. Kakhobwe, S. Sanudi, C. Petro, P. Cholopi, P. Sambani, C. Chirwa (C. Kaira, 60th min), C. Idana (G. Phiri, 69th min), Y. Chester, S. Kuwali (M. Mhone, 85th min), J. Banda, G. Mhango (A. Maliselo, 90th min).
Zimbabwe: T. Shumba, M. Phiri (K. Nadolo, 46th Min), D. Lunga, A. Mudimu (J. Dzingai, 76th min), T. Hadebe, T. Chimwemwe, M, Nakamba, T. Chinyahara (W. Taderera), T. Rusike, C. Mashumba (E. Katema, 46th min), K. Billiat (I. Nekati, 88th min).