A brace from Tino Kadewere saw defending champions Zimbabwe grab a late equaliser and then go on to win in extra-time with a 4-2 success over Zambia in a pulsating 2018 COSAFA Cup final at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday.
Zimbabwe extend their record of tournament wins to six and are also the third nation to claim back-to-back titles after Zambia and South Africa.
It is a fourth tournament win for Zimbabwe coach Sunday Chidzambwa, extending his record as the most successful coach in COSAFA Cup history, and he remains unbeaten after 18 matches in the Southern African championship.
Kadewere opened the scoring early, but a brace from Zambian forward Lazarous Kambole swung the final in the favour of Chipolopolo.
Sweden-based Kadewere bagged an equaliser three minutes into injury-time at the end of the game and Khama Billiat then slotted a penalty and scored another to secure the title for the Warriors.
The final got off to an electric start as Kadewere found a gaping hole in the defence and with just Toaster Nsabata is the Zambian goal to beat, he coolly slotted the ball into the net.
That had the sizeable Zimbabwe support on their feet, but the lead last only four minutes before Zambia scored an almost carbon-copy goal.
Kambole ghosted in between the Zimbabwe centre-backs and easily rounded goalkeeper George Chigova before placing the ball in the net to equalise.
Billiat had an excellent chance to regain the lead when he received the ball 15 yards from goal, but his left-footed shot was just over the crossbar.
Kadewere missed the opportunity for a second when he was five yards out at the back post but swung his shot on the half-volley over the bar.
The chances dried up towards the end of the first half, with Zimbabwe finishing the stronger as the scoreline read at 1-1.
But it was Zambia who hit the front five minutes into the second period with another goal from the red-hot Kambole as he beat the offside trap and fired past Chigova from a tight angle that required power and precision.
Zambia were almost in again when substitute Collins Sikombe raced onto a through-ball, but Chigova just managed to get there before the Chipolopolo player, who went flying as they clashed. The gloveman was able to clear in the end.
Zimbabwe had an excellent spell at the other end as first Marshall Munetsi saw his effort from a corner saved by Nsabata, before Billiat and substitute Evans Rusike both went for the same volley and in the end it was a tame effort from the latter that was easily collected by the Zambian keeper.
Talent Chawapiwa was the next to test Nsabata with a rasping shot that was saved at the second attempt.
Zambia had a moment of good fortune from a Zimbabwe free-kick when Nsabata completely missed his punch, but Alex Mudimo could not steer his effort on target.
As Zimbabwe pushed forward in search of an equaliser, they left holes at the back, but newly-arrived substitute Ronald Kampamba could not exploit these as he put his shot against the post when well-placed to score.
And he was made to pay as Zimbabwe went up the other end and scored in injury-time at the end of the second half, with Kadewere turning the ball home from close-range to force the game into extra-time.
Zimbabwe were the stronger at the start of extra-time and won a penalty when Billiat was brought down in the box. He brushed himself off to take the spot-kick and buried it into the corner of the net.
And the win was sealed when Zimbabwe mounted a counter-attack that had three forwards on two defenders, eventually working the ball to Billiat to complete his brace.
Madagascar attacking midfielder Andriamirado Andrianarimanana, better known as Dax, was named Player of the Tournament, while Zimbabwe stopper Chigova won Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
The top goalscorer prize was claimed by Botswana forward Onkabetse Makgantai, who netted five times in his side’s six games.
Zimbabwe will take home R500,000 for their tournament win, while Zambia will have to settle for R250,000. Lesotho claim R150,000 for finishing third and Madagascar R125,000 for fourth.
South Africa picked up R100,000 after they won the Plate final, beating Botswana 3-0 on Friday.
Zambia 2 (Lazarous Kambole 8’, 50’) Zimbabwe 3 (Tino Kadewere 4’, 90’, Billiat 98’, 116’) – after extra time
Matches Played: 23
Goals scored: 48
Biggest victory: Botswana 6 Mauritius 0 (Group B, June 1)
Most goals in a game: 6 – Botswana 6 Mauritius 0 (Group B, June 1)
5 goals – Onkabetse Makgantai (Botswana)
4 goals – Luis Miquissone (Mozambique)
3 goals – Kabelo Seakanyeng (Botswana), Lebohang Maboe (South Africa), Lazarous Kambole (Zambia)
2 goals – Joatombo Bourahim (Madagascar), Jeitoso (Mozambique), Aubrey Modiba (South Africa), Philana Kadewere, Khama Billiat(both Zimbabwe)
1 goal – Kaporal (Angola), Mohamed M’changama (Comoros Islands), Andriamirado Andrianarimanana, Tokifandresena Andriamanjato (both Madagascar), Precious Sambani (Malawi), Damien Balisson (Mauritius), Leeroy Coralie, Eric Miellie, Elijah Tamboo (all Seychelles), Karabo Phiri, Thatayaone Kgamanyane, Tshepo Maikano, Gape Mohutsiwa (all Botswana), Motebang Sera, Masoabi Nkoto (both Lesotho), Evans Rusike (Zimbabwe), Motjeka Madisha, Siyanda Xulu (both South Africa), Deon Hotto (Namibia),
1 own goal –Emmanuel Vincent (Mauritius v Angola)