Alexandria — BRAVE Zimbabwe put on a gallant show, but still left the game with broken hearts as their World Cup dream virtually ended, in agonising fashion, after they fell to Egypt in an African Zone Group G qualifier at the Borg El Arab Stadium here last night.
The Warriors were four minutes away from stealing a rare, and probably deserved draw, on their visit to Egypt when ageless Pharaohs midfielder Mohammed Aboutreika struck the sucker punch that ended the youthful side's resistance and sealed Zimbabwe's fate in the group.
Aboutreika, at 35 the second oldest player behind his goalkeeper Abdel Wahed El Sayed, who is 36, drilled the winner from a penalty after Augustine Mbara felled Pharaohs' second half substitute Ahmed Gafaar in the box.
Senegalese referee Badora Diatta had no hesitation pointing to the spot and even flashed a yellow card in the face of Dynamos defender Mbara and television replays showed that the Glamour Boy was late in his tackle and clipped the heel of the forward.
That goal cancelled an otherwise brilliant equaliser from Warriors talisman — Knowledge Musona — in the 77th minute and ended the hopes that had been restored by the Augsburg striker's goal.
With the Warriors still without a win in the group, a draw would have given them confidence and hope of getting four points from the Pharaohs whom they host in the reverse fixture in Harare in June.
But, at the end of a windy night in Egypt's second largest city, it was Zimbabwe, who remained rooted at the bottom of Group G with just a point from three games while the Pharaohs stretched their lead to nine points and five ahead of second-placed Guinea.
Although few had given Klaus Dieter Pagels' team any chance against an Egyptian side that has a 100 percent record in these qualifiers, it is the brave manner in which the visitors went about their business on the night that should have won them some admiration from millions of viewers back home who followed the game on national television and a small but colourful band of Zimbabweans, who followed them from Cairo.
In the ninth minute, Denver Mukamba shot just wide from an angle in the game's first real opportunity as both teams traded attacks from the onset and the visitors not showing any signs of being intimidated.
Pagels elected to use Abbas wide on the left and Songani on the right and Billiat just behind Musona.
In the 31st minute, Salah tested 'keeper Washington Arubi's agility with a volley, while straight from the counter raid Musona burst into the box only to be denied by a timely tackle from veteran Al Ahly defender Wael Gomaa as he pulled the trigger.
Zimbabwe then had the underside of the bar, and Arubi's fine reflexes to thank after he made a wonder save when Mohamed Salah ghosted in from the blind side and got to the end of a long cross by Mohamed Ibrahim to connect with a free header.
Buoyed by that close chance, the Pharaohs upped their game after the half hour mark and forced Arubi into some important saves.
The Egyptian attacks were mainly coming from the flanks where the Dynamos pair of Partson Jaure at rightback and Ocean Mushure on the left were having a busy night trying to contain Zamalek's Ibrahim and Salah, who plays for Basel in Switzerland.
But for all that the Egyptians tried to throw at them the Warriors, with goalkeeper Arubi in inspired form, ensured they repelled and tried to open up the Pharaohs, who were being backed by an estimated six thousand drum-beating fans.
The fans, however, were guilty of directing laser lighting into the eyes of the Warriors' players, a move that raised the ire of head of delegation Ndumiso Gumede, who complained to the match commissioner about it, but to no avail.
It was a promising start which the Warriors needed in order to settle down against their highly-rated opponents and they seemed to be doing well with Archford Gutu keeping a close eye on old war horse Aboutreika and Musona fronting the counter raids as a lone gunman.
The Warriors resistance, however, lasted 64 minutes when Hosny Adraboul curled home a free-kick from just outside the box.
Arubi had seemed to do well to dive the right way, had a touch to the ball but there was power and precision to the effort and it still found its mark.
It could have been two six minutes later when Salah swept past left back Mushure, drew Arubi off his line but then saw his curling effort crash against the underside of the bar and bounce out, much to the Warriors' relief.
A minute earlier, Aboutreika lost his markers and sneaked into the box, but with Arubi's big frame advancing and closing the angle on him the former Al Ahly man sliced the ball wide off the mark.
Just when the Warriors were being pegged back with their defence being kept busy, Musona fashioned a goal out of nothing, latching onto a long Lincoln Zvasiya clearance and thundering a rising shot from 25 metres out in the 77th minute, which gave Abdel Wahed El Sayed no chance.
It was a classy goal worth winning any match on any other day.
The Pharaohs continued to keep the Warriors under siege but Arubi was being a true leader on the pitch and in mood to take any prisoners.
It actually needed the late penalty from Aboutreika to beat the Pretoria University goalkeeper again and the four minute curse of Zimbabwean teams in Egypt to decide the Warriors fate in the night.
Zimbabwe: W. Arubi, P. Jaure, O. Mushure, A. Mbara, L. Zvasiya, A. Gutu, S. Songani (O.Kauru 58th min), D. Mukamba, K. Musona, K. Billiat (T. Rusike 80th min), A. Amidu (R. Mutuma 57th min)
Egypt: A.W. Elsayed, A. ElMuhamady, W. Gomaa, M. Naguib, A Shedid, H. AbdRabo, M. ElNeny, M. Aboutreika, M. Ibrahim (A. Fathy 46th min), M. Salah (A. Gafaar 70th min), M. Geddo.
Article by: Petros Kausiyo