Senior Sports Reporter
Zimbabwe……….. (1) 2
Algeria…………….. (2) 2
WARRIORS coach, Zdravko Logarusic, threw in his final ace and was rewarded with a priceless goal as Zimbabwe fought a good fight to pick a big point in their 2121 AFCON qualifying campaign.
The hosts looked dead and buried, when they went down 0-2, in their battle against the African champions, at the National Sports Stadium, yesterday.
But,the Croatian coach changed his team at the break, injected pace down the left channel, and was rewarded with a late goal from substitute Prince Dube.
The in-form forward, with his first touch, forced his effort home for the equaliser in this foul-goal thriller.
The Warriors lost the reverse fixture 1-3 in Algiers last week.
The point helped Algeria to book their place at the next AFCON finals on 10 points, while the Warriors now have to battle the Zebras of Botswana and Zambia’s Chipolopolo, for the other slot.
The Warriors have five points, from four games, with both their home matches ending in draws, while Botswana are now in third place, with four points, after a 1-0 win over Zambia yesterday. The Zambians have three points, with just one win, a scrappy 2-1 victory over Botswana last week, in their four games.
Zimbabwe will host the Zambians in Harare and travel to Botswana in their final two games, while the Zebras also have an away game against the Desert Foxes.
The Zambians have a home game against Algeria and an away battle in Harare.
Yesterday, the Warriors appeared on their way to a second loss in four days,when goals from Andy Delort and Riyad Mahrez had put the visitors 2-0 up by the 38th minute.
“It’s not easy to come up against Algeria. We had expected to win (at home) but then we conceded two naive goals from individual mistakes,’’ said Loga.
“We saw our weaknesses and we had to organise our individual tactical moves as a group.
“We had to cover one another and not to create a lot of space.
“Anyway, against the champions of Africa, we were 0-2 down and we came up and I am satisfied.
“We were pushing for three points but, with the point we got, we are still in control of our destiny in the group.
“I think everything depends on us for our qualification. I am sure Zimbabwe can score goals against any team in Africa.’’
Loga, who had made some questionable changes to the starting line-up, admitted they had a poor first half.
He was forced to make four changes at the restart in frantic efforts to avoid another hiding.
His decision to leave some of Zimbabwe’s regular players like Khama Billiat, Alec Mudimu and Kuda Mahachi, was as bold as it was controversial.
Midfielder Tafadzwa Rusike, defender Jimmy Dzingai and goalkeeper Talbert Shumba, who replaced injured Elvis Chipezeze, acquitted themselves well.
But Zimbabwe’s problems in the left back position got even worse yesterday with newboy Adam Chicksen, who had come in for Divine Lunga, struggling to keep up with the pace of Mahrez.
And, after surviving three set-pieces from dangerous positions, Zimbabwe were caught flat-footed in the 34th minute when Algerian striker, Delort, was given room in the box to head home the opener.
Mahrez then added the second, four minutes later, after he expertly controlled the ball with his heel, in full flight, and turned Chicksen inside-out before firing a low shot past goalkeeper, Shumba.
But, Zimbabwe refused to throw in the towel.
Tino Kadewere won a free-kick, at the edge of the box, and skipper Musona held his head in disbelief after crashing his effort against the crossbar in the 42nd minute.
But, the hosts were awarded another free-kick, and Musona, who has become a set-piece expert for the team, took responsibility and his right curling shot gave ‘keeper Rais M’bolhi no chance.
The complexion of the game changed completely after the changes at the break and Kadewere had his header, tipped over the bar, in the 56th minute, before going wide with his shot, moments later.
Dube was introduced in the 81st minute and found himself at the right place, and tight time, to force the ball home for the equaliser.
He connected from the blind side after the ball had been flicked from a corner.
Loga explained his first team changes.
“The point is we thought Zemura and Chicksen, for example, are a bit stronger and can give us that advantage from the left but then things didn’t work out well,’’ he said.
“But, I think David Moyo had a good job. He really proved himself. In the second half we decided to organise and we took out David Moyo, a big player, and we put Khama to try and reorganise.
“And, we put in the experienced player, Ovidy (Karuru) because (Marvelous) Nakamba couldn’t do all the work alone.
“At the end, when we scored, we pushed our captain to the rightback because we started to play with three on the back when I put Prince inside.
“When I was talking with my assistants they were always insisting on Prince and I said Prince will score at the right time, in the right place and in the right minute.
“I was waiting, and juggling in my mind, Prince or (Terrence) Dzvukamanja and I said I couldn’t make a decision, let me see.
“But then, I said Prince, and he scored.’’
Zimbabwe: T. Shumba, T. Darikwa (P. Dube 82nd min), J. Dzingai, T. Hadebe, A. Chicksen (D. Lunga, 46th min), J. Zemura (K. Mahachi, 46th min), T. Rusike (O. Karuru, 46th min), M. Nakamba, K. Musona, D. Moyo (K. Billiat, 46th min), T. Kadewere.
Algeria: R. M’bolhi, A. Mandi, D. Benlamri, A. Bensebaini, M. Halaima, A. Guedioura, M. Benrahma (Y. Brahimi, 72nd min), I. Bennacer (M. Abeid (79th min), R. Mahrez (A. Ounas, 79th min), S. Feghouli (J. Belkebla (68th min), A. Delort (B. Bounedjah, 68th min)