Ghana……………………………. (1) 3 : Zimbabwe…………………….. (0) 1 : THERE was no immediate respite for Zimbabwe’s battered 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign as their woes mounted when the Warriors melted in the searing heat of Ghana’s Cape Coast last night.
Momentary lapses of concentration by defenders also helped Ghana secure a victory that kept them in second place and still in the hunt for a place in the final qualifying round.
In the end, one of the most notable positives from this game was probably that Zimbabwe finally found a way to score, as they grabbed their first goal of the qualifiers.
But, by the end of 90 minutes, it was still all gloomy once again for the Warriors, as their thumping defeat by the Black Stars means they remain rooted bottom of Group G and virtually out of contention, barring a miraculous turn of fortune in the remaining games.
Yet skipper Knowledge Musona, ending his own Warriors goal drought that had spanned three games, had given the visitors a glimmer of hope with a coolly converted 49th-minute penalty that drew his team level.
This was after Mohammed Kudus had given the hosts a first-half lead.
Ghana then sealed their comprehensive win with further goals from Thomas Partey and a late header from captain Andre Ayew.
Until their sensational collapse, the Warriors had shown some glimpse of direction and stability under returning coach Norman Mapeza, with England-based wing-back Jordan Zemura, just like Musona, in impressive form.
Mapeza felt his charges had gifted the Black Stars some soft goals.
“I think it was a good game of football. I think we saw so many positives from this game, but I think we conceded soft goals,” Mapeza said.
“First few minutes, there was lack of concentration, and then the second goal, Darikwa was just supposed to clear the lines, and third goal, I think it was a throw and we should have closed that man down before he crossed the ball.
“For it was the first time to be with them but in terms of positives, I think there were so many positives from this game.”
Talismanic captain, Musona, scored Zimbabwe’s goal from the spot four minutes after the restart after Knox Mutizwa was tripped as he reacted to a fine low cut-back by Zemura.
The result means Zimbabwe remain bottom of Group G with one point, six behind log leaders South Africa, who overran Ethiopia 3-1 away in Bahir Dar in an earlier game yesterday.
Mapeza made some changes to the starting line-up, as he introduced FC Platinum midfielder Kelvin Madzongwe in the middle, where he partnered Perfect Chikwende in a five-man department that also had Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba, Thabani Kamusoko and Zemura.
Wigan Athletic player Tendai Darikwa also returned to the starting side, forming a back-three alongside Marshall Munetsi and veteran Onismor Bhasera in a 3-5-2 formation that had Musona and Mutizwa playing as the twin strikers.
Veteran keeper Washington Arubi was preferred ahead of Talbert Shumba, and the Marumo Gallants was already picking the ball from the back of the net after only five minutes when Kudus’ deflected shot sailed into the bottom corner.
Musona then levelled matters when he placed his spot-kick into the top corner after Mutizwa had been fouled by Alexander Djiku.
Zemura nearly made it 2-1 a few minutes later but his curling shot hit the upright with the Ghanaian keeper Joseph Luke Wollacott a beaten man.
Musona too came charging for his second of the night but his blistering shot on the run was parried away in the 64th minute.
That was before the Black Stars seized control of the game two minutes later, when Arsenal holding midfielder Partey punished Darikwa for his mistake and danced through a host of Zimbabwean legs before slotting past a diving Arubi.
Darikwa was guilty of losing the ball in a dangerous position when it seemed the simplest thing to do was opt for safety first.
Ghana’s seasoned captain, Ayew, then sealed victory for the Black Stars with a free header three minutes from time.
The defeat worsened the woes for Zimbabwe, who are now virtually out of the race to qualify to next and final round of qualification.
Their plight was worsened by South Africa, who posted a crucial victory in Ethiopia yesterday.
Bafana Bafana scored through Teboho Mokoena, Mothobi Mvala and Evidence Makgopa.
South Africa are now on seven points ahead of the reverse fixture against Ethiopia at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe also host Ghana at the National Sports Stadium on the same day.
Ghana: J. Wollacott, D. Amartey, J. Mensah, A. Djiku, B. Rahman, T. Partey, A. Ayew (K. Owusu 90+2), M. Kudus, I. Fatawu, K. Sulemana (D. Kryeh 79th), J. Ayew (B. Tetteh 60th)
Zimbabwe: W. Arubi, T. Darikwa, O. Bhasera, K. Madzongwe, M. Nakamba (T. Hadebe 75th), T. Kamusoko, M. Munetsi (F. Madhanaga 83rd), J. Zemura (B. Kangwa 74th), P. Chikwende (K. Mahachi 83rd), K. Musona, K. Mutizwa (T. Dzvukamanja 86th)