The visitors’ star player, Percy Tau had a quiet game by his own standards with the Warriors having done well to contain him
South Africa were held to a 0-0 draw by Zimbabwe in their opening 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier, a Group G match which took place at National Sports Stadium in Harare on Friday.
This was coach Hugo Broos’ first match in charge of Bafana Bafana having missed the team’s friendly against Uganda and the 2021 Cosafa Cup as he had returned home in Belgium for his second Covid-19 vaccination.
The 69-year-old tactician adopted a cautious approach with Evidence Makgopa starting upfront as a lone striker, while Teboho Mokoena and Mothobi Mvala were deployed as holding midfielders.
Broos’ counterpart, Zdravko Logarusic named four South Africa-based players, Khama Billiat, Onismor Bhasera, Kudakwashe Mahachi, and Divine Lunga in the hosts’ starting line-up.
South Africa started well with Mvala dictating the tempo of the match and switching passes from the middle of the park as Bafana Bafana searching for an early goal.
Bafana were able to get in behind the Zimbabwe defence on a couple of occasions, but they were moving the ball slowly in the final third – allowing the Warriors defence to recover and clear their lines.
The visitors resorted to taking long-range shots with Mokoena, who scooped last season’s PSL Goal of the Season for his wonderful strike against Mamelodi Sundowns, trying his luck from distance.
One of the SuperSport United midfield general’s attempts was fantastically saved by goalkeeper Talbert Shumba – finger-tipping a thunderous shot over the crossbar as Broos’ men pushed for the opening goal.
This served as a wake-up call for the Warriors, who then took control of the game and they began combining well in the visitors’ half which saw Mahachi and Billiat both force keeper Ronwen Williams into two decent saves.
South Africa then stood firm at the back and contained Zimbabwe and the score was 0-0 at the interval following a first-half which had a few chances.
Broos made a tactical change prior to the start of the second-half as he pulled out ineffective attacking midfielder Gift Links and the Belgian tactician introduced out-and-out striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane.
Hlongwane, who had joined Makgopa upfront as twin strikers, nearly broke the deadlock when his deflected shot was cleared off the goal-line by Takudzwa Chimwemwe.
Having had a quiet game by his own standards, Percy Tau had a chance to snatch a late-winning goal for the visitors, but his effort was comfortably saved by a well-positioned Shumba.
It proved to be the last real chance of the Southern African Derby and the encounter ended in a 0-0 draw on the day.
South Africa will now host Ghana in their second Group G match on Monday, while Zimbabwe are scheduled to face Ethiopia away on Tuesday.