Cosafa Cup guest participants Senegal started their campaign on a losing note with a 2-1 defeat by Namibia in a Group B encounter at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium on Wednesday.
Marcel Papama thrust Namibia ahead 13 minutes into the match before Albert Diene hit back for Senegal four minutes later.
Five minutes into the second half, Elmo Kambindu got to the end of Aprocious Petrus’ through-ball to grab the goal which decided the contest and send Namibia to the top of Group B.
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The Brave Warriors’ occupation of top spot was aided by the 0-0 draw between Zimbabwe and Mozambique earlier on in the day at the same venue.
Wafu Cup of Nations champions Senegal arrived in Gqeberha as one of the tournament favourites but they went down to Namibia after an uninspiring performance.
Mohamed Ba and 19-year-old winger Abu Diop were guilty of missing chances for Senegal especially in the second half as the West Africans were chasing the game.
The duo was duly substituted with 20 minutes to go and Senegal did little to restore parity as Baroka FC’s Ananias Gebhardt was steely at the back for Namibia together with Polokwane City’s Denzil Haoseb..
Kambindu almost grabbed a brace late in the game but found Pape Seydou N’Diaye unyielding in goals for the Teranga Lions.
Earlier on, Zimbabwe and Mozambique played to a goalless draw.
Mozambique started the match on a high, forcing Warriors goalkeeper Washington Arubi to make three desperate saves inside the opening seven minutes.
Zimbabwe’s first real chance at goal only came in the 24th minute when captain Ovidy Karuru’s grounder saw Mozambique goalkeeper Ernan Siluane stretching to make a save at the left bottom corner.
From then, Zimbabwe became the more threatening side with Brian Banda and Farai Matare coming close just before the halftime whistle.
Then in the 77th minute, Mozambique thought they had broken the deadlock after substitute Salas had beaten Arubi with a headed effort only for his goal to be flagged offside.
Karuru then narrowly missed with his header with 10 minutes to go, before Delic Murimba and Richard Hachiro also nearly struck for the Warriors just before the final whistle.
Mozambique had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Eldrick Adelaide right at the death after Warriors defender Carlos Machurume appeared to have handled inside the box.
Zimbabwe coach Zdravko Logarusic blamed little preparation time for the result while he also bemoaned the suspension of football in the North of Limpopo.
“We only had five days preparing, and we haven’t played in the league since November 2019. This means there were no official games except the Cup games [Chibuku Super Cup],” Logarusic told SuperSport TV.
“This is a good start, we created some chances, and [Mozambique] also had some good opportunities. I think at the end, it is a fair result.”
Zimbabwe now prepare to face Malawi in their next match on Friday, while Senegal clash with Mozambique on the same day.