Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE were seconds away from recording a win over host nation South Africa before the two countries played out a 2-2 draw in a Cosafa Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday.
Panashe Mutimbanyoka opened the scoring for the Tonderai Ndiraya coached Young Warriors with nine minutes played when he headed in from a corner kick. South Africa drew level in the opening seconds of the second half as Oswin Appollis provided a neat finish.
Zimbabwe had the lead again from a corner with 15 minutes to go, as home goalkeeper Bontle Molefe made a hash of trying to clear the ball and midfielder Lexington Mujokoro bundled the ball into the net.
It looked as though that would be the winner, but a free-kick into the Zimbabwe box deep into injury-time was not cleared and Mohlala Makola’s shot from eight yards was too strong for Zimbabwe goalkeeper Raphael Pitisi.
It was late drama as the teams shared the points in what was possible a fair result, though that may leave both coaches disappointed.
While Ndiraya was dissatisfied with the draw, he was however pleased with how his boys played against opponents who have been together from Under-17 level.
“Of course I am disappointed with the draw but I am happy with the way the boys went about their business. We played a team which played the final of the same tournament last year and have been together since their Under-17 days,’’ Ndiraya said.
He feels that the Zimbabwean boys who have been together for just two weeks and should be highly commended for them to put up such a brave fight against such a good team. He is hopeful that the lads will draw lessons from the lapse in concentration on the two goals they conceded.
Next up for Zimbabwe is a clash with Mozambique on Sunday before they meet Lesotho next Tuesday.