KNOWLEDGE MUSONA led a cast of Zimbabwean strikers who were on target for their clubs in the Belgian and South African top-flight leagues at the weekend ahead of the international break which will see the Warriors completing their 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers in Guinea on Sunday.
The Warriors started regrouping in the capital yesterday ahead of their training camp this week as they plot, for the first time in their dance with the Nations Cup qualifiers, to complete their qualifying campaign without losing a match.
There were reports, though, last night that Warriors’ winger Marshal Mudehwe was lucky to escape with his life after his car was involved in an accident on Saturday night as he travelled from Zvishavane to Harare for the training camp.
Zimbabwe will take on Guinea in Conakry on Sunday with the Warriors, who have already qualified for the 2017 Nations Cup finals, needing only to avoid defeat for them to complete an historic unbeaten run in the qualifying campaign for the continent’s biggest football prize.
Callisto Pasuwa and his men are unbeaten in five games in the qualifiers, winning three of the matches, including two against Malawi, and being held to a draw by Guinea in Harare and Swaziland away from home.
Crucially, the Warriors have also been impressive on the road, something which was their Achilles heel in the past, with four points from a possible six after beating Malawi in Blantyre and picking up a point in Swaziland.
The last time the Warriors were in Conakry for a duel against Guinea, who are their regular opponents at this level of the game, Zimbabwe crashed to a 0-1 defeat after arriving in batches just hours before the game.
Pasuwa has said although his men have already secured qualification, they need to avoid defeat in Guinea because it will improve their standing on the FIFA rankings which will be used for the draw of the 2017 Nations Cup finals.
Belgium-based forward Musona, the leading light for the Warriors in attack in the past five years, has been named in a very strong squad for the trip to Guinea and the “Smiling Assassin” showed he is in red-hot form by scoring his third goal in the Belgian top-flight league at the weekend.
Musona scored the second goal on Saturday night, which proved to be the winner, as KV Oostende beat Waasland Beveren 2-1 for their third win in their first five league matches in which they have also drawn once and lost once.
It was Musona’s third goal in five matches for Oostende in a strong start to the campaign for the Zimbabwean ace.
He latched on to an assist by teammate Cyriac in the 17th minute to score and double Oostende’s lead on Saturday and although the visitors pulled one back after the interval, Musona and his teammates held on for victory.
That win pushed Oostende into third place on the standings and only Sporting Charleroi and Zulte Waregen, who were scheduled to play their fifth match last night, have done better than them at this stage of the season.
Musona’s first goal this season came in the first match of the campaign when Oostende crashed to a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Gent with the Zimbabwean scoring his side’s only goal three minutes into time added on.
Oostende then bounced back from that loss to beat Club Brugge 1-0, although Musona wasn’t on target in that match, and they made it two wins in as many matches after a 2-1 win over Mouscron-Peruwelzz in a game in which the Zimbabwean converted a penalty in the 73rd minute.
Musona wasn’t the only Zimbabwean on target at the weekend with another Warriors’ star, Khama Billiat, also scoring to help South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns to a 3-1 win over Tshwane rivals SuperSport United in the quarter-finals of the MTN8 at Loftus yesterday.
Billiat, though, has been excused from national duty for the trip to Guinea with Pasuwa correctly giving his star forward a deserved rest given that he has been in action, for club and country, since July last year.
The diminutive forward, voted the best player in South Africa last season, scored Sundowns’ third goal in the victory over SuperSport United.
The Zimbabwean coolly finished, after he got to the end of a good combination from Percy Tau and Sibusiso Vilakazi, turning his marker in trademark fashion before finishing with aplomb in the 80th minute of the contest. Another Zimbabwean striker, Kingston Nkhatha, had provided SuperSport United with hope after grabbing the equaliser having come in for the injured Bradley Grobler.
SuperSport United coach Stuart Baxter said his team paid a huge price for their defensive shortcomings.
“It was a game in every way, shape and form until they scored the second goal,” Baxter told SuperSport TV after the match.
“We had equalised, we got onto the front foot a bit more and our attacking play was better.
“But we gave away a very, very poor second goal from our point of view and after that we didn’t really have an attacking threat. So we didn’t keep our shape and we opened up the field for Sundowns, who kept the ball for fun.
“We did nothing to stem the flow, I was hoping we would come back at them but we didn’t. We only opened up bigger spaces, which only meant the third goal was going to come because we had to start flinging people forward.”
Tendai Ndoro, who is in the squad for the Warriors’ trip to Guinea, failed to score on Saturday as his club Orlando Pirates crashed to a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Bidvest Wits in a quarter-final showdown of the MTN8 Cup.
Ndoro received rave reviews last week after an impressive showing in scoring a hat-trick for Pirates in a league match against Golden Arrows but he had few chances on Saturday, including one he dragged just wide after having found space down the right channel.