Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter
GOALKEEPER George Chigova has earned the admiration and respect of football analysts and fans in Mutare following his consistent life-saving performances that saw the Warriors’ book a place in the final of the ongoing 2018 Cosafa Cup.
Chigova was the hero for Zimbabwe again, as he took his team to a 3-1 penalty shoot-out win over Lesotho in the semi-finals of the Cosafa Cup on Wednesday evening.
The match at Peter Mokaba Stadium ended goalless and went to penalties, and just as against the Zebras Botswana this past weekend in the quarters, the Warriors’ goalkeeper was unbeatable between the posts and led his team to victory.
Zimbabwe will go on to face Zambia in the final on Saturday, while Likuena will battle Madagascar for the bronze medals on Friday.
Bongai Dube of Zimunya said the coaches made the right choice in playing Chigova.
“I think it was a wise decision to field George Chigova. His huge frame made it difficult for those who were taking penalties and even in open play he was brilliant,” he said.
Buffaloes’ goalkeeper Chengetai Tandadzai said Chigova deserves praise for ensuring that the Warriors progress in the tournament.
“George Chigova is the main reason we are in the finals. If it were not of the penalties that he saved it could have been a different story. I think he is the best that we have at the moment in that position,” he said.
Blessing Marara of Natview Park said the Warriors need to improve on their conversion rate in front of goal and not depend on Chigova going into the final.
“We are lucky that we had a good goalkeeper in George Chigova who managed to save penalties that saw us through to the finals. However, we need to improve on their conversion rate in front of goal and not depend on Chigova going into the final. What if he gets injured? We need to win this tournament and we should do that by scoring goals,” said Marara.
Aaron Chiba heartily thanked Chigova for guaranteeing a place in the final for the Warriors.
“He (Chigova) is the one who saw us through to the finals. We really want to thank him for that. It was indeed a good decision to make him our first choice goalkeeper though we need to score goals,” he said.
Zimbabwe enjoyed the early ascendancy and managed to bring their trio of forwards – Khama Billiat, Brian Amidu and Evans Rusike – into the game on a regular basis, though they were unable to test Lesotho goalkeeper Likano Mphuthi.
Warrior’s best scoring opportunity of the first half went the way of Amidu in the 45th minute, with the forward latching onto the ball while unmarked in the penalty area, but Mphuthi came off his line and did just enough to keep the game goalless at half time.
Lesotho showed far more attacking impetus after the break, and had a couple of promising moments early in the second half when Zimbabwe goalkeeper George Chigova was drawn off his line, but they were unable to fully capitalise.
The match ended goalless after 90 minutes, before Chigova took centre stage by saving Lesotho’ first two spot kicks to set his team up for victory.