Zimbabwe edge Zambia in Cosafa Cup final thriller
Zimbabwe equalised at the death of injury time, then Khama Billiat's extra-time penalty and goal earned the Warriors the 2018 Cosafa Cup with a 4-2 win in Saturday's intensely-fought final against Zambia at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.
The final, which culminated at 2-2 at the end of normal time, will go down as easily the best seen in the 18 editions of the Cosafa Cup.
Philana Kadewere put Zimbabwe ahead in the fourth minute, with Zambia equalising almost immediately in the eighth through Zesco United's highly-rated forward Lazarus Kambole.
Kambole put Zambia 2-1 up in the 50th. Chipolopolo appeared set for victory before Zimbabwe's equaliser by Kadewere three minutes into added time, moments after Zambia hit hit the woodwork, sent the game into an extra half-hour.
Khama Billiat's 100th-minute penalty, then 116th-minute strike earned Zimbabwe victory.
This pulsating final was a confirmation of these two teams as Southern Africa's powerhouses.
Holders Zimbabwe, who had brought a full-strength team to the Cosafa, extended their record from five to six tournament victories, retaining their 2017 title.
Zambia remained joint-second with South Africa on four Cosafa Cup victories.
Zimbabwe took the lead in a thrilling opening 10 minutes through a poor defensive error by Zambia centreback Martin Sikaonga, whose attempted pass across the front of his own area was straight to Kadewere.
The Warriors forward ran through and easily scored past goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata to put Zimbabwe ahead.
Zambia equalised when left wing Kelvin Mubanga's angled pass was played into the path of the well-timed run by Kambole splitting the central defenders, who rounded goalkeeper George Chigova to finish.
Five minutes into the second half Zambia's second was scored through a beautifully worked movement.
Nsabata's long-ball was finely-controlled by Kambole on the left touchline who played inside to Clatous Chama, then made the run to receive the return pass. The Zesco star burst free into the area and finished low past Chigova.
In a dramatic finish to normal time, at one end, with Zimbabwe pushing numbers forward, Zambia had the chance to wrap up the game two minutes into added time when Chama's pass put substitute Kampamba through to hit the upright.
The ball was immediately worked to the other end, where Billiat headed into the path of Kadewere to pull pack an equaliser at the death.
In the 98th Billiat was pushed off the ball by Ronald Kampamba, referee Helder de Carvalho pointing to the spot. The little Mamelodi Sundowns forward stepped up and slotted to the right of Nsabata.
Then Billiat capped his strong finish to the game slotting Zim's fourth.