Cape Town - Zimbabwe defeated arch-rivals Zambia 4-2 after extra time at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday to claim the 2018 Cosafa Cup title.
The Warriors, who trailed right to the death of regulation time before pulling the game out of the fire, have now won a record-extending six Southern African Championships - including the last two in succession.
Zimbabwe got off to flying start thanks to a terrible error in defence from Zambia’s Martin Sikoanga, whose square pass was intercepted by Philana Kadewere - the striker sprinted clean in on goal and got the better of Toaster Nsabata to put his side 1-0 up in just the fourth minute.
Yet Zambia hit back in the eighth minute to level the game at 1-1, with Lazarous Kambole running onto a great defence-splitting pass from John Ching’andu before rounding George Chigova and tapping into an empty net.
Zimbabwe went on to dominate the remainder of the first half, though they never really troubled Nsabata again - their best effort arrived in the 22nd minute when Talent Chawapiwa’s pull-back from the left found Khama Billiat, but his effort grazed the top of the crossbar.
Chipolopolo claimed the lead for the first time in the 50th minute, as a great counter attack saw Clatous Chama put Kambole through on goal with a great pass, and the striker showed his superb finishing skills by sending a low shot through the legs of Chigova to make it 2-1.
Zimbabwe pushed hard for the equaliser and should have drawn level in the 82nd minute when a free-kick driven into the danger area was missed by Nsabata and found the head of Alex Mudimu, but the defender couldn’t direct his effort on target.
Zambia should have wrapped up the game in the third minute of injury time when substitute Ronald Kampamba had only the goalkeeper to beat, but sent his shot against the upright. Zimbabwe counter attacked and dramatically claimed an equaliser, with Billiat’s cushioned header allowing Kadewere to send a low shot past Nsabata’s right hand.
The match ended 2-2 after the regulation 90 and went to extra time. Eight minutes into the extra half hour, Kampamba was again at fault for Zambia as he pulled down Billiat in the 18-yard area to give Zimbabwe a penalty. The Mamelodi Sundowns forward took the spot kick himself and coolly converted to make it 3-2 to the Warriors.
Chipolopolo had no reply in what remained of the game and had to suffer the ignominy of another Billiat goal to wrap up the score at 4-2, with the mercurial forward latching onto an assist from Kadewere on a counter attack in the 117th minute.