African News 6.7.2017 10:55 am

Zambia, Zimbabwe reach final after goal fest

Knox Mutizwa of Zimbabwe celebrates a goal with teammates during 2017 Cosafa Castle Cup match between Lesotho and Zimbabwe at Moruleng Stadium. (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Knox Mutizwa of Zimbabwe celebrates a goal with teammates during 2017 Cosafa Castle Cup match between Lesotho and Zimbabwe at Moruleng Stadium. (Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix)

Zimbabwean Knox Mutizwa scored a hat-trick and Zambian Justin Shonga a brace as their nations reached the Cosafa Cup final.

Record-equalling four-time champions Zambia came from behind to defeat “guests” Tanzania 4-2 at Moruleng Stadium in the northwest platinum mining belt.

Zimbabwe, who have also won the competition four times, triumphed 4-3 over Lesotho in the second match of a double-header that delivered 13 goals.

The goal fest was a far cry from the group stage of the competition last week with spectators in nearby Phokeng having to endure 318 minutes without a goal.

“It was an exceptional performance by my young boys,” said Zambia coach and former international Wedson Nyirenda. “They exceeded expectations.”

Tanzania coach Salum Mayanga attributed the loss to tiredness: “This was our fifth match in 11 days. My boys are very, very tired.”

Zimbabwe coach Sunday Chidzambwa had mixed emotions after his team set up a third final against Zambia in the annual competition.

“We were good going forward, but conceded some very soft goals tonight. Zambia will punish us unless our defence improves.”

Lesotho coach Moses Maliehe was upbeat despite losing: “I congratulate my boys on a gutsy performance. They never stopped trying and took the match to the wire.”

After Erasto Nyoni gave Tanzania an early lead from a free-kick, Zambia hit back with goals from Brian Mwila and Justin Shonga just before half-time.

Jack Chirwa converted a penalty and Shonga struck again to take the Zambians three goals clear before Simon Msuva claimed a late consolation goal for Tanzania.

In the second semi-final, Mutizwa scored his first goal by poking a corner into the net and Sera Motebang levelled three minutes before the break.

A second-half goal deluge began with Mutizwa scoring again and Talent Chawapiwa put Zimbabwe two goals ahead entering the final quarter.

Mabuti Potloane brought Lesotho back into contention by finishing a sweeping move 10 minutes from time only for Mutizwa to complete his treble.

Tsoanelo Koetle converted a penalty three minutes into stoppage time to complete the scoring.

COSAFA Cup action resumes Friday with another Moruleng double-header.

South Africa meet Namibia in the final of a plate competition for losing quarter-finalists, followed by the third-place play-off between Lesotho and Tanzania.

Zambia and Zimbabwe meet Sunday in the final at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Phokeng, a 2010 World Cup venue.

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