IT’S advantage to the Warriors for now. Ajax Cape Town midfielder Khama Billiat reminded many of the days of a young Peter Ndlovu’s trickery when he provided a fine show at Rufaro yesterday as Zimbabwe registered a seemingly comfortable victory over Angola in a 2013 African Nations Cup first leg, final round qualifier.
The lively winger had a hand in all the three goals scored by Zimbabwe in the first half and received the man-of-the-match accolade in the end.
“I am just excited that we have won and scoring three goals past Angola is not easy. However, I must say that there’s still a lot of work to be done before we play in the return leg,” said Billiat.
Zimbabwe and Angola were meeting for the first time in a high profile match since their last match almost seven years ago at the National Sports Stadium.
With more precision and composure, Billiat could have scored a hat-trick from yesterday’s match where chief striker Knowledge Musona was missing.
Musona could not travel from his base in Germany after Zifa sent in their request for the player late, but in his absence yesterday, Billiat led the Warriors’ quest for goals.
Angola grabbed an away goal that could be priceless for them in the reserve fixture but for now Zimbabwe have got the advantage and are on the threshold of making their third appearance at the Nations Cup finals.
Zimbabwe, who were pushing for an early goal, got the break-through in the fourth minute when Archieford Gutu was fouled on the left channel.
From the resultant free-kick, Billiat whipped the ball into the box and Angolan defender Mateus turned it into his own net after poor communication with team-mate Bastos.
The own goal calmed the nerves of the hosts who then increased the lead in the 22nd minute when Rodwell Chinyengetere sent a long pass from the right to Billiat.
Billiat skillfully worked his way past Angolan defender Dany before slicing the ball past an advancing Lama Luis, in goals for Angola.
Zimbabwe then made it 3-0 in the 33rd minute when Noel Kaseke delivered a high ball into the far side where Billiat was lurking unattended.
Billiat in turn sent the ball into the box for Gutu to angle his header past Lama. Two minutes earlier, Billiat had a goal disallowed for off-side.
Zimbabwe could have scored another goal in the 18th minute but out-of-sorts striker Takesure Chinyama, who had made a good run in the box, was dispossessed before he could pull the trigger.
Chinyama struggled to stamp his authority and was pulled out for Denver Mukamba in the 32nd minute as coach Rahman Gumbo sought to add more goals.
Angola had their moments in the first half where they caught the Warriors defence off guard on few occasions.
The Palancas Negras caused anxious moments for Zimbabwe when Mateus worked his way past an otherwise impressive Esrom Nyandoro on the left before releasing a rising shot that took some paint off the up-right pole with Warriors goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini beaten.
Mateus had another chance to score in the 15th minute but Zimbabwe left-back Onismor Bhasera thwarted the raid as he pushed the ball out for a corner.
Angola, who played at the 2006 World Cup, nearly reduced the arrears just before the break when Amaro created space from the left but Bhasera pushed his effort for another corner as goalkeeper Kapini was sprawling on the ground.
Zimbabwe had a lethargic start to the second half in which they failed to continue with their fine rhythm from the first phase with Gutu making too many stray passes.
But it was in the 50th minute that Billat left a lasting impression at Rufaro when he latched on to a loose ball wide on the left before easing past Bastos and then waltzed past Fabricia, and Lama had to pull a top drawer save to push the ball away for a corner.
By then, Zimbabwe were sitting pretty on a three-goal cushion and the fans did not cry much over the near-goal.
Angola’s Djalima and Manuel, who came soon after the break, kept asking the Warriors defence some questions.
Djalima could have reduced the arrears after being set up by Miguel from at the edge of the box but he reacted slowly and gave Carlington Nyadombo the opportunity to recover.
For all his probing, Djalima was rewarded when he beat Noel Kaseke and Nyadombo from a sleek move and then pushed the ball past an advancing Kapini in the 58th minute for Angola’s face-saver.
The goal by the Angolans sapped all the enthusiasm that the Warriors had shown earlier on and Kapini aggravated his ankle injury after he collided with Djalima as the Angolan player went for the kill.
The Warriors skipper, who was drafted into the team at the last minute, was attended to by the medical team but he could not proceed with the match and Ariel Sibanda was given a run.
Angola coach Gustavo Ferrin could be kicking himself for keeping his ace in the pack – Manucho – on the bench until the second half.
But keeping the former Manchester United star Manucho on the bench was a blessing in disguise for Warriors coach Rahman Gumbo.
“Really, I don’t know why they could keep their star player on the bench. I am happy for the boys as we managed to score three goals past Angola.
“It’s a great result and we had wanted to guard jealously against conceding a goal.
“But Angola managed to score and it was not a classy goal but a goal is a goal.
“I think people are aware of the troubles we faced in preparing this team.
“Before the game, I told the guys that this is the chance for some of them to make an impact and be the talisman for the team.
“There used to be Peter Ndlovu and then Knowledge Musona and I told them that one of them should now take over in this game.
“All we need to do is to get proper preparations and that is up to Zifa to work out for the crucial reverse fixture.
“I think we should avoid conceding any goals in the return leg and at the same time remain offensive,” said Gumbo.
Zimbabwe: T. Kapini (A. Sibanda 62nd min), N. Kaseke, O. Bhasera, E. Nyandoro, C. Nyadombo, V. Nyoni, O. Machapa, A. Gutu (N. Maziwisa 58th minute), K. Billiat, T. Chinyama (D. Mukamba 32nd minute), R. Chinyengetere.
Angola: Lama Luis, Fabricia, Lunguianha, Dany (Manuel 46th minute), Manucho Diag, Bastos, Amaro, (Djalma 46th minute), Miguel, Pirolito, Matues, Nando Rafeal (Manucho 63rd minute).
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