LUSAKA – The Zimbabwe national football team moved into the semifinals of the Cosafa Cup after surviving a second half scare to see off 10-man Malawi 3-1 on penalties at the Nkoloma Stadium, Lusaka, Zambia on Saturday.
The match had ended 1-1 in regulation time after Masimba Mambare had given the Warriors a first half lead before the Flames were handed a lifeline by goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupanedengu’s later own goal.
The Warriors scored their spot kicks through Devon Chafa, Erick Chipeta and Ocean Mushure while debutant Lot Chiwunga had his effort saved by Malawi keeper Simplex Nthala.
Only striker Chukwepo Msuwoya was able to beat Nyamupanedenu from 12 yards out to condemn the Flames to defeat after they had bravely fought to force a draw despite playing with a man down.
The Flame of Malawi put up a brave fight as they had to play for the entire second half after James Sangala was sent off for towards the end of the first-half for a second bookable offence.
Mambare fired the Warriors into the lead in the 14th minutes into the game after reacting fast to poke the ball home following a parry by Nthala from a Tendai Ndoro header.
Malawi had started strongly and went close with an early header but Zimbabwe got the breakthrough when they won a free kick on the right flank.
Warriors’ midfielder Charles Sibanda’s swinging free kick found Ndoro, who was making his Zimbabwe debut, at the back post but he directed his header straight at Nthala.
Unfortunately for the Flames, Mambare, who is captaining Zimbabwe in Zambia, reacted fast to give the Warriors the lead.
The Warriors, who are the defending champions of the competition began to control the game from there on but failed to turn their ball possession into goals.
Ndoro, who is the Castle Premiership’s leading top goal scorer with 11 goals, should have increased the Warriors’ lead on 27 minutes but was wayward with his shooting.
Mushure also missed another good chance after bursting forward from his full back position as the Warriors searched for the killer goal.
That insurance goal never came and in the second the Warriors spent most of the time repelling wave after wave of Malawi attacks.
With the Flames throwing everyone forward in search of an equaliser Zimbabwe had many opportunities to wrap up the game on the counter but they could only fluff their lines.
Sibanda had the best Warriors chance in the 73rd minute to kill off the match but failed to hit the bac of the net from close range.
The Warriors were made to pay for those glaring misses as the Flames were back on level terms with six minutes to go after Nyamupanedengu’s howler.
The Warriors goalkeeper misjudged a long ball into the box and could only parry it into his net after the slightest of contacts with Malawi forward Msuwoya.
The game went to penalties where Nyamupanedengu was the hero with some great saves to keep the Warriors on course to defend the title.