ZIMBABWE coach Kallisto Pasuwa says the Warriors learnt the hard way as they crashed out of the African Nations Championships yesterday after missing chances to defeat Mali at Umuganda stadium here.
The Warriors were desperate for points in this Group D encounter after losing their opening match against Zambia 0-1 at the same venue last Tuesday.
However, as they did against Chipolopolo, the Warriors dominated the game but still came second best after Mali midfielder Moussa Sissoko ghosted in from the blind side to side-foot the ball home in the 81st minute off a free-kick from the left by Lassa Samake.
Zimbabwe conceded in similar fashion in their match against Zambia.
Pasuwa attributed the defeat to inexperience in key stages of the game and said “football’s cruel side’’ had manifested itself on his charges’.
“Football is a very cruel game and just like in the first game, we got a number of good chances and we failed to put away any. They get just one chance from a free-kick and they score.
“It has been a learning curve for these players who are mostly Under-23 and unfortunately, they have learnt the hard way. We just have to motivate them again so that they can finish strongly against Uganda.
“Unlike in 2014 when we had a lot of senior and experienced players, we brought a younger team here to expose them and I think they have seen it now and they have got some experience.
“I think we had done our homework on Mali and we brought in a lot of young and energetic players to close them down and press them and I think we did that well.
“It’s just that the luck of converting our chances was not on our side,’’ Pasuwa said.
With two defeats by identical margins, the Warriors are out of the race for a quarter-final place and will now face Uganda here on Tuesday for mere pride as they can only finish with three points which will not be enough to take them through.
Zimbabwe once again got off to a nervous start, hurrying their efforts in the first quarter of the match in which neither side threatened any goal.
But unlike in the match against Zambia, Pasuwa’s men did not take long to come out of their shell and in the 16th minute Edmore Chirambadare swept into the box from the left channel but his low cross found no takers.After 23 minutes, Chirambadare and Ronald Chitiyo twice came charging into the box but the final ball let them down.
The game’s first real opportunity arrived after 27 minutes with Rodreck Mutuma preferred ahead of Francisco Zekumbawire in attack, shaking his head in disbelief after his diving header rebounded off the upright post with the Mali goalkeeper Djigui Diarra a beaten man.
It was a great chance lost and Mutuma who had got to the end of a Chitiyo cross was left cursing his luck.
Once they found their way into the game, the Warriors were clearly the better side on the afternoon but as has been the tale in their group matches, they could not turn that dominance into the much-needed breakthrough.
And nine minutes from time, they paid a huge price as Sissoko who plays for Onze Creatures punished them for a lapse in concentration.
Until that goal, The Eagles who showed so much pace and deal against Uganda had not arrived at the match and had barely tested Warriors goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva.
Their coach, Djibril Dame acknowledged that his side had played second fiddle but noted that luck and precision had worked for them.
“Zimbabwe is a tough team and we have always struggled to beat them. Football changes all the time. We had a good game against Uganda but we had a difficult game today. In football you also need luck,’’ Drame said.
Zimbabwe: Tatenda Mukuruva, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Ocean Mushure, Stephen Makatuka, Lawrence Mhlanga, Nqobizitha Masuku, Farai Madhanhanga, Marshal Mudehwe, Ronald Chitiyo K. Mutizwa 84th minute), Rodreck Mutuma (F. Zekumbawire 71st minute), Edmore Chirambadare (W. Manondo 61st minute).
Mali: Djigui Diarra, Abdoulaye Traore (N. Koume 61st minute), Assoko Hamed Marius, Diarra Sekou, Yves Bissouma (A. Dieng 58thminute), Hamidou Sinayoko, Mamadou Coulibaly, Lassana Samake, Moussa Sissoko, Abdoul Karim Dante, Sekou Koita