A hat-trick from Knox Mutizwa inspired Zimbabwe to a thrilling 4-3 win over Lesotho in the second Cosafa Cup semifinal at Moruleng Stadium on Wednesday night.
The result sees the Warriors set up a classic final against Zambia (who defeated Tanzania 4-2 earlier in the evening) on Sunday at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. The winners will become the first team to win five Cosafa Cup titles.
Lesotho started brightly and had a couple of early shots on target, though goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya was equal to the task.
Zimbabwe took their time to find an attacking rhythm and were only really sparked into life when Lesotho ‘keeper Likano Mputhi sloppily gave the ball away near his box and Ovidy Karuru sent a shot just wide of the unguarded goal in the 18th minute.
Less than 60 seconds later the Warriors hit the front, with Lesotho’s defence failing to clear a simple corner kick delivery into the six-yard box and allowing Knox Mutizwa an easy close-range finish for 1-0.
On 26 minutes it should have been 2-0, with Honest Moyo producing a superb run from midfield before squaring to find Mutizwa, but the Golden Arrows forward put his shot wide of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Lesotho opted for a tactical change just after the half hour mark as they replaced striker Thapelo Tale with the more physical Sera Motebang. Likuena immediately began to play more directly and put Zimbabwe’s defence under pressure.
Three minutes before the end of regulation time in the first half, Lesotho equalised through Motebang: the substitute had the ball fall kindly for him in the penalty area before shooting home to make it 1-1.
Parity was short-lived, however, with Zimbabwe reclaiming the ascendancy in the 51st minute. Talent Chawapiwa’s perfectly weighted pass found Mutizwa in the box and he coolly finished off the chance for his second of the night, 2-1 to the Warriors.
On 64 minutes Chawapiwa turned from provider to scorer, picking up a loose pass near Lesotho’s box, cutting inside from the right and blasting a left-footed shot past Mputhi to make it 3-1.
Lesotho looked to be dead and buried at two goals down, but they sparked the game back into life in the 80th minute when Motebang and Khutlang set up Mabuti Potloane to reduce the deficit to 2-3.
However, just three minutes later, Zimbabwe stretched their lead back out to two goals when Mutizwa exchanged passes with Raphael Manuvire before finishing from close range to complete his hat-trick and make it 4-2.
There was still time for a seventh goal in injury time when Lesotho’s Tsoanelo Koetle converted a penalty, but it was too little, too late.
Lesotho (1) 3 (Motebang 42’, Potloane 80’, Koetle 90+3’ pen)
Zimbabwe (1) 4 (Mutizwa 19’ 51’ 83’, Chawapiwa 64’)
Lesotho: Mputhi, Moremoholo, Tseka, Mokhehle, Sello, Mahula, Koetle, Kalake (Potloane 63’), Khutlang, Ntso, Tale (Motebang 33’)
Zimbabwe: Mawaya, Chipeta, Tigere, Chakoroma, Moyo, Takwara, Chawapiwa (Katsvairo 77’), Mucheneka (Manuvire 46’), Karuru, Mushure, Mutizwa