Three goals from skipper Knowledge Musona helped Zimbabwe beat Liberia 3-0 in their 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Group G qualifier at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Sunday afternoon.
Zimbabwe now occupy the No 1 spot in the group with three points from one match and will now visit Congo in their second match in March 2018.
Norman Mapeza’s men started on high as they dominated the ball possession, but it was Thabani Kamusoko whose wonderfully struck shot from the d-line went inches wide just after the 10th minute.
Three minutes later, Musona showed his quality in the box as he received a well-drilled cross from the right, but the skipper’s header was swallowed by keeper Wynney Desouza.
However, Musona broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute when he caught the Lone Stars’ defense sleeping after a defense splitting pass from Danny Phiri in the midfield.
James Debbah’s men received a free-kick in a promising area in the 31st minute, but defender Marcus Macauley saw his attempt going wide off keeper George Chigova’s post.
With five minutes to go to the break, Kudakwashe Mahachi rattled the crossbar with a well-taken set piece and the Liberians cleared the danger.
Liberia nearly silenced the crowds but Nimely failed to capitalize on Zimbabwe’s defensive error in the 43rd minute when his curler missed the left post.
It was 1-0 at halftime.
Six minutes into the second half Musona bagged his brace after receiving a perfect cross from Mahachi on the right flank to beat Desouza from close range.
The former Kaizer Chiefs striker in South Africa completed his hat-trick in the 63rd minute when he brilliantly converted Partson Jaure’s cross from the left wing.
With 15 minutes to go, Musona continued to trouble the Liberians as he hit the woodwork trying to chip Desouza.
The Zimbabweans did not take their foot off the pedal as they probed for their fourth goal, but the Liberian defense was solid.
For the Lone Stars, the defeat means they will sit at the bottom of the standings with zero points from one loss – they will now meet DR Congo in Monrovia in March next year.
Zimbabwe: (1) 3 (Musona 23′, 51′, 63′)
Liberia: Desouza, Varney, Glay, Dennis, Kennedy, Nimely, Maculey, Numah, Saydee, Kranger, Paye
Zimbabwe: Chigova, Chipeta, Bhasera, Jaure, Hadebe, Nakamba, Phiri, Mahachi (Karuru 87′), Musona, Kamusoko, Ndoro (E. Rusike 70′). (Supersport.com).