HARARE – Knowledge Musona bagged his first international hat-trick to guide the Warriors to a perfect start in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Liberia yesterday.
Musona, who was appointed captain for this new-look Warriors side taking over from Willard Katsande, led from the front with a man-of-the-match performance.
The Belgium-based forward showed why he is highly-rated with a sterling performance that put Zimbabwe on top of Group G, after DR Congo beat Congo Brazzaville 3-1 on Saturday.
But Musona was, however, not moved by personal glory and instead lauded his teammates for a job well done.
“I was pleased most with the three points; that’s what we wanted,” Musona said after the match.
“I want to give credit to the supporters for supporting us through the entire match. It was a good result and good start for us.
“Of course I was happy top score three goals but it’s not about all me but we work as a team and we managed to bury the chances that came our way.”
The Warriors showed their intention from the first whistle as they were all over their opponents, and it seemed just a matter of time before they would score.
With the impressive Kamusoko and Marvelous Nakamba in control of the midfield and winger Kuda Mahachi threatening when in possession, the visitors were there for the slaughter.
The visitors never looked in it, and in truth, it was just a combination of poor finishing and sometimes good goalkeeping by their keeper Boison Wynney De Souza that prevented Norman Mapeza’s charges from scoring over a dozen goals.
Having come close several times especially in the opening stages of the game, Musona finally opened the scoring in the 24th minute when he got to the end of a beautiful Danny Phiri through ball.
With the visitors’ defenders expecting an offside flag, the KV Oostende striker kept his cool before burying his shot past De Souza.
From there on, the Warriors continued to rally forward in pursuit of more goals but were let down by forward Tendai Ndoro, who struggled to get into the match before he was substituted in the second half.
The returning Kamusoko, who had been overlooked by previous coach Kalisto Pasuwa, almost doubled the Warriors’ lead four minutes from the break but his free kick from the edge of the box crashed against the upright.
Moments later, the visitors were almost level after defender Teenage Hadebe failed to clear a harmless shot but Spartak Moscow forward Sylvanus Nimely sent his effort wide.
Musona doubled the Warriors’ in the five minutes after the break when he connected with ahalf volley a cross from Kuda Mahachi.
The Warriors captain did not have to wait long for his hat-trick when he scored the third in the 63rd minute.
This time, the former Kaizer Chiefs forward showed his predatory instinct when he ghosted at the far post before to finish a cross from Partson Jaure.
Musona could have scored a fourth but was unlucky when his effort crashed against the crossbar 15 minutes before time.
Kamusoko and second half substitute Evans Rusike also came close but were denied by the visitors’ goalkeeper.
Liberian coach James Salinsa Debbah conceded defeat saying his charges lacked experience at the big stage.
“These are all youngsters, we had about six key players who didn’t play,” he said.
“If I had a full squad it could have been a different story. It’s not I am looking for excuses we have to go back to the drawing board and plan for our next matches. If you analyse all the goals was a result of inexperience we had only two professional players in this squad.
“But I am however optimistic that we can still qualify to the Afcon alongside Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwe: George Chigova, Knowledge Musona, Erick Chipeta, Onismor Bhasera, Tendai Ndoro (Evans Rusike 71min), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Ovidy Karuru 87min), Thabani Kamusoko (Devon Chafa 90min), Teenage Hadebe, Marvelous Nakamba, Partson Jaure
Liberia: Boison Wynney De Souza, Zah Rahan Krangar (Murphy Dorley 57min), Prince Kennedy, Hilton Varney, Dirkir Glay, Teah Dennis, Saah Nyumah, Marcus Macauley, Sylvanus Nimely, Prince Saydee, Mark Paye (Christopher Jackson 57min)