at NATIONAL SPORTS STADIUM
Zimbabwe ……… (1) 1
Ethiopia …………(0) 1
KUDAKWASHE Mahachi scored a beautiful goal but it was not enough as the Warriors wrapped up their 2022 World Cup qualifying Group G campaign without a victory after allowing Ethiopia to rally from behind and force a draw yesterday.
When it appeared the Warriors would finally claim their first victory of the campaign, they somehow lost concentration three minutes from full time allowing Abubeker Nasir Ahmed to equalise for the visitors.
The result meant the Warriors claimed the wooden spoon with just two points from six matches and four defeats without a win while Ethiopia finished third on the log with five points from the same number of games.
With nothing to play for having already eliminated from contention for the playoffs, Norman Mapeza fielded a relatively weak side to try different combinations and even left players like Marvelous Nakamba, Blessing Sarupinda and Knox Mtizwa on the bench.
And while they showed promise after dominating in certain phases, they, however, failed to create clinical chances against an organised Ethiopian side, which manipulated the ball for better parts of the game.
And addressing the media at final whistle Mapeza felt his side should have managed the game better in the closing stages.
“I think the guys did well despite them having problems in recovering. It’s a game where we know we were playing a very good team which is very comfortable on the ball, a team which can pass the ball around very well.
“They have been passing the ball for quite some time. We managed to control the first half and defensively we did well because they never had an opportunity in the first half and the second half. I think we played beautifully.
“We went into the second half leading thinking that the opponent will come back at us. We were organised and I think we were supposed to do well in terms of game management then we ended up conceding that goal in the last three minutes.
“But I am proud of these boys I think ever since I came they have been some improvements and from what I saw today I am very proud.”
Zimbabwe started strongly but could not to create any meaningful chances and could not test Ethiopia goalkeeper Teklemariam Shanko as lone striker David Moyo was left isolated without clean supply of the ball.
Ethiopia, however, grew in confidence passing the ball around with ease and even created a couple of half-chances, with Taimon Mvula, who was making his debut called to deny Getaneh Kebede and Shimelis Bekele.
It was the Warriors, however, who went ahead on 39 minutes after pressing their opponents high up forcing them to lose possession allowing Mahachi to beautifully execute a long-range shot when he caught Shanko off his line.
The game, however, turned in the second half after Ethiopia made a tactical shift bringing in Aschalew Tamene at the start of the second half. And coupled with the introduction of Takudzwa Chimwemwe and Jonah Fabisch, who did little to defend, the visitors started finding spaces.
Warriors were luck on 48 minutes after Ethiopia hit the cross bar with Mvula well beaten. However, there was nothing to stop the visitors three minutes from full time Ahmed breached the Warriors defence before beating Mvula to ensure a share of spoils.
Ethiopian coach Wubetu Abate praised his charges after full whistle.
“This is the last match for the World Cup qualifier so we knew we were playing a better team. They were playing long balls and really connect well. We were determined and luckily we scored the goal. It is a bigger step and we played well, this means a lot to us,” Abate said.