Zimbabwe moved to the top of their COSAFA Cup Group A after a 2-0 victory over Mauritius in their tournament opener at the Moruleng Stadium on Sunday.
The Zimbabweans, who are among the pre-tournament favourites, coasted home in the end and would have won y a much larger margin were it not for the brilliance of Mauritian goalkeeper Kevin Jean-Louis.
In the end goals from Carlos Rusere and Ronald Chitiyo in either half were enough to see them home, and they should have had a third when Talent Chawapiwa’s shot appeared to cross the line before it was cleared, but the match officials disagreed.
Mauritius battled hard, but never really tested Zimbabwean goalkeeper George Chigova and will have to go back to the drawing board on how to create more chances between now and their next match.
Zimbabwe led on 28 minutes when Rusere latched onto the loose ball and thundered home the opener.
It was 2-0 midway through the second period when Ronald Chitiyo saw his effort deflect passed the unlucky Jean-Louis.
In the opening match of the tournament, Namibia were frustrated as they played to a 0-0 draw with Seychelles.
Namibia created numerous opportunities in the game but a mixture of poor finishing and good goalkeeping from islanders gloveman Jose Euphrasie kept the Brave Warriors at bay.
The lively Deon Hotto proved a thorn in the Seychelles side all match, but when presented with the opportunity to win it near the end, fluffed his lines.
When he did finally beat the goalkeeper, defender Yannick Manoo cleared off the line.
But Seychelles did have chances of their own to grab the win. Gervais Waye Hive forced an excellent save from Namibia goalkeeper Virgil Vries just before halftime after a well-struck free-kick.
And then with virtually the last kick of the game, Rennick Esther was clean through on goal but with just Vries to beat, allowed the keeper to deflect his effort wide.
Monday sees the opening matches in Group B played at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace with two intriguing fixtures to look forward to.
Lesotho, who finished fourth at the COSAFA Cup 2013, open their campaign against Madagascar at 17h00 local time (15h00 GMT).
Lesotho coach Seephephe Matete says his side need a good start to reach their ultimate goal, the quarterfinals.
“We want to go to the quarterfinals at least, that has to be our minimum goal,” he said. “It will not be easy to get out of our group, because there are some tough teams there, but we must go into the tournament hoping to make the quarterfinals at least, but hopefully the semifinals and then who knows?
“The further we go, the more games we get and that means more experience for our players.”
Madagascar are returning to the competition for the first time since 2008, having not featured in the last two installments.
The second match is at the same venue and sees east African guest nation Tanzania clash with Swaziland.
Both these sides will also have an eye on the quarterfinals and for Tanzania it is a return to a competition they first played in 18 years ago.
Tanzania coach Mart Nooij found success in this competition before with Mozambique and he is looking for more of the same this year.
“This is not the first time for me as a coach to participate in the COSAFA tournament,” he says. “The countries who are members of COSAFA all have strong national teams. That makes the competition very competitive. That’s what we are looking for with the national team of Tanzania.”
Namibia 0 Seychelles 0
Zimbabwe 2 (Rusere 28’, Chitiyo 66’) Mauritius 0
Lesotho vs Madagascar (KO 17h00 local, 15h00 GMT) – Royal Bafokeng Stadium
Tanzania vs Swaziland (KO 19h30 local, 17h30 GMT) – Royal Bafokeng Stadium
Group A P W D L GF GA Pts
Zimbabwe 1 1 0 0 2 0 3
Namibia 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Seychelles 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Mauritius 1 0 0 1 0 2 0
Group B P W D L GF GA Pts
Lesotho 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Madagascar 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Swaziland 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tanzania 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Matches Played: 2
Goals scored: 2
Biggest victory: Zimbabwe 2 Mauritius 0 (Group A, May 17)
Most goals in a game: 2 – Zimbabwe 2 Mauritius 0 (Group A, May 17)
1 goal – Carlos Rusere (Zimbabwe), Ronald Chitiyo (Zimbabwe)