Tadious Manyepo in BUTARE, Rwanda
Rwanda 0-0 Zimbabwe
THERE was positivity from the way the Warriors performed on their official return to international football but they could only pick a point as they began their quest to qualify for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers at Huye Stadium yesterday.
Zimbabwe ended their international wilderness they had been subjected to for the past two years due to a Fifa suspension with this tie against Rwanda.
Given this background, Baltemar Brito’s men were expected to struggle especially playing on an artificial turf in Rwanda’s third biggest city.
But historical statistics favoured the Zimbabweans who, despite going for a two-year period frozen from the game are still ranked above Rwanda.
Brito named a suspect first 11 which showed some nerves in the opening moments but once they settled in the game, they did remind everyone that after all good old days could be on their way back.
There was a good number of Zimbabweans who came to cheer the team and the players responded commendably well although they had received the sad news of the passing on of colleague George Chigova just before kick-off.
They could have even won this match and easily so had they applied themselves well especially in the attacking third.
“I am happy with the overall performance of my team. We are coming from a very difficult period, a two-year suspension and to come here and get a point against a team that has been playing all along,” said Brito.
“It was a very difficult game, you all saw how it unfolded.
“All my players did very well and any other day we might have won the match. But picking a point away from home in our first international game in two years really is not bad.
“We have somewhere to start from given the way we played this game”.
Zimbabwe will ‘host’ Nigeria in their second qualifying match at the same venue on Sunday.
The team was expected to shift base back to Kigali last night where they will train for the next two days before they return to Butare late tomorrow.
Zimbabwe had the first sniff at goal and they should have scored.
Goalkeeper Donovan Bernard who had an outstanding afternoon hit a long ball with Admiral Muskwe the beneficiary but the dreadlocked forward was hesitant to take responsibility allowing the Rwandan defence to clear their lines.
He was injured in the process and had to be replaced by Terrence Dzvukamanja with just 22 minutes played.
Seven minutes later Dzvukamanja got Zimbabwe’s best chance but was a bit slow in unleashing a shot that should have given the guests the lead.
Four minutes after the half hour mark, Walter Musona hit a good freekick from outside the box but it went over.
At the opposite end, Bernard performed heroics in denying Innocent Nshuti and Hakim Sahabo.
Zimbabwe were the better team in the second half but just like in the first period they failed to convert the chances that came their way with Gerald Takwara failing to direct his header with a yawning goal before him.
Dzvukamanja and Prince Dube were also found wanting in this regard while Bernard thwarted all the threats that came his way.
Ntwari Fiacre, Fitina Omborenga(Arthur Gitego 46min), Emmanuel Imanishimwe (Claude Niyomugabo 83min), Ange Mutsinzi, Thierry Manzi, Bonheur Mugisha, Hakim Sahabo (Kevin Muhire 76min), Djihad Bizimana, Lague Byiringiro (Abdul Rwatubyaye 46min), Innocent Nshuti (Patrick Sibomana 76min), Gilbert Mugisha
Donovan Bernard, Andrew Mbeba, Gerald Takwara, Teenage Hadebe, Divine Lunga, Marvelous Nakamba, Brian Banda, Marshal Munetsi, Walter Musona (Obriel Chirinda 67min), Admiral Muskwe (Terrence Dzvukamanja 23min), Prince Dube (Tino Kadewere 74min)