by Sports Reporter
Zimbabwe (1) 1 Guinea (1) 1
ZIMBABWE blew a golden chance to top their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group when returning goalkeeper Washington Arubi gifted Guinea with an easy goal just after 60 seconds in a match played at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.
The Warriors now have four points from two matches after beating Malawi 2-1 in their opener in July while Swaziland remained on top, on better goal difference, with the same number of points after they drew 2-2 at home against Malawi.
Malawi and Guinea have a point each.
The Warriors face Swaziland in their next match away while Guinea host Malawi.
Playing before a sell-out crowd, fans were still settling in their seats when Arubi received a back pass that he could simply have played out or back into play.
But the experienced University of Pretoria goal minder dilly-dallied and the ball hit his shins, only for the on rushing Guinea striker Iddrissa Sylla to slot home, bringing Rufaro into total silence.
Knowledge Musona then rescued Zimbabwe’s point five minutes before the breather.
Coach Kalisto Pasuwa admitted at the end of the match that the early goal unsettled his boys, but was happy with the fight-back.
Manna from heaven … Guinea celebrate their first minute gift goal
“Obviously, we did not see that coming. It just happened and that unsettled the boys but I am happy with the fighting spirit they showed to get the equalizer,” Pasuwa said.
After the Guinea opener, the Warriors seemed to settle, stringing passes together with man of the match Costa Nhamoinesu leading from central defence.
Musona shot wide after five minutes and on the quarter, the Belgian-based striker was at the end of a superb pass from Danny Phiri, but missed.
A minute later, Phiri also shot wide from close to the arc as the Warriors tried to stage an early comeback.
Three minutes later, it was Khama Billiat’s chance to slice wide and that marked the moment when chances dried up with Guinea playing possessions football, based on wing play.
That meant the visitors left some gaps at the back. One such gap was exploited by Musona in the 40th minute when he ran around a defender and came face to face with the goalkeeper to slice far and wide into the nets, much to the relief of Pasuwa and the thousands of fans.
Guinea players cried foul and accosted the far side assistant referee, alleging that Musona was offside when he intercepted Phiri’s long ball, but the goal stood.
The first chance of the second half arrived on the hour when skipper Willard Katsande exchanged passes with left back Milton Ncube.
The Ajax Cape Town man fed Billiat, who was running wide and he sent in an inviting cross into the box that Nyasha Mushekwi, who had a terrible afternoon, hit wide.
In the 70th minute, Musona headed wide an Eric Chipeta cross.
Eight minutes later, the former Kaizer Chiefs hitman almost gave Zimbabwe maximum points but his stinging shot was well held by Guinea keeper Moussa Yattarra.
Guinea had the chance to seal it five minutes from time when substitute Lacine Yatarra evaded the Zimbabwe backline but when Arubi came off his line to narrow the angle, the strike shot wide.
Zimbabwe were then awarded a free kick just outside the box. Musona curled away from the Guinea defensive wall, but the keeper pushed it out.
In the 90th minute minute, Phiri’s long range effort was also saved by the keeper.
Then it was the turn of Chipeta to, again, try and seal it for the Warriors when Kuda Mahachi, who had come in for Billiat, sent in a long corner for the Chippa United defender to head home.
And the ball just seemed to be floating towards the nets, with the keeper at sea, only for a Guinea defender to clear it from the line.
Washington Arubi, Partson Jaure, Milton Ncube, Costa Nhamoinesu, Eric Chipeta, Willard Katsande (captain), Danny Phiri, Khama Billiat (Kuda Mahachi 85th min), Knowledge Musona, Cuthbert Malajila, Nyasha Mushekwi (Mathew Rusike 68th min)
Moussa Yattara, Florentin Pogba, Issiaga Sylla, Fode Camara, Ousman Sidibe (Oumar Diop 46th min), Iddrisa Sylla (Lacine Yattarra 70th), Alhassane Bangoura, Mohammed Diarra (Akom Keita 68th min), Lanfia Camara, Fofana Boubacar, Seydoumbi Soumah