ZIMBABWE scored a dramatic last ditch equaliser to take the Cosafa Cup final into extra time and then saw Khama Billiat net twice to retain the southern African championship with a dramatic 4-2 victory over perennial foes Zambia in the final.
Zambia were only seconds away from extracting revenge for defeat in last year’s final but conceded deep in stoppage time in Polokwane, South Africa, to see the game tied 2-2 after 90 minutes and then gave away a spot-kick in extra time to snatch defeat from jaws of victory.
Khama Billiat won a record-extending sixth title for Zimbabwe with his 101st minute penalty, getting up off the turf after he had been brought down in a clumsy tackle by Zambia substitute Ronald Kapamba to slot home the resultant kick, and then scored an insurance goal in the 117th minute.
Sweden-based striker Tino Kadewere scored Zimbabwe’s two goals in regulation time including a dramatic 93rd minute equaliser at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in South Africa’s northerly Limpopo Province.
Kadewere put the Warriors forward after just four minutes of play only to see his effort cancelled by Zambian forward Lazarous Kambole four minutes later.
The Warriors fell behind after 49 minutes when Kambole was allowed to race into space to beat George Chigova from an acute angle.
From that time, Sunday Chidzambwa’s men put up a resolute show to try and get back to parity but were repelled by an equally resolute Zambian rear guard.
With everything pointing to a Zambian victory, it took the magic of Kadewere deep into injury time to put the Warriors level with a fierce tap-in off a Khama Billiat pass inside the box, forcing 30 minutes of extra time.
The goal was not without its piece of drama as it came against the run of play when a Zambian effort on the opposite side bounced against the Zimbabwean goal post in a moment that saw the Warriors mount an immediate counter attack which resulted in the equaliser.
Bouyed by their late comeback, the Zimbabweans took full control of the match with a resurgent Billiat who had been quiet by his standards earning a penalty when he got fouled inside the box.
Billiat took the kick himself to give the Warriors the advantage 9 minutes into extra time.
The Warriors talisman was back again 26 minutes into extra time to put the scores beyond the reach of their opponents when he fired from close range to make it 4 for the Zimbabweans.
The triumph gave Zimbabwe their sixth COSAFA Cup glory, one ahead of their neighbours who have won it five times since inception.
With their victory, the Zimbabweans also managed to defend their title in a repeat of last year’s final when they conquered the same opponents.
The Zambians may not be too lucky with their southern neighbours this weekend as their country’s senior women’s team also plays Zimbabwe’s Mighty Warriors in an Africa Women Cup of Nations qualifier this Sunday with hopes to overturn a 0-1 defeat they suffered in the first leg of their encounter in Lusaka this past week.
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