Zimbabwe goalkeeper George Chigova proved the hero again as the Warriors sealed a COSAFA Cup final berth against Zambia with a 3-1 penalty shoot-out victory over Lesotho after their semifinal finished 0-0 at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium on Wednesday.
Zambia defeated Madagascar 1-0 in the other semifinal as Lazarous Kambole scored the only goal of the game.
Having saved three penalties in the quarterfinal shoot-out win over Botswana on Sunday, Chigova, who plays his club football at Polokwane City, came up with two more against Lesotho to seal a final berth for the defending champions.
The shoot-out finished in unusual circumstances when, needing to convert his kick, Lesotho midfielder Jane Thaba-Ntso made too much of a stuttering movement in his run-up and his kick was disqualified by referee Ahmad Heeralall from Mauritius.
It means Zimbabwe and Zambia clash in the COSAFA Cup final for the fourth time in six COSAFA Cup tournaments, with Zimbabwe having claimed victory in 2009 and 2017, and Zambia on home soil in 2013.
Lesotho's Motebang Sera found himself unmarked from a free-kick in the early stages and managed to get his header on target, but Chigova made a comfortable save.
Zimbabwe were reduced to long-range efforts from Khama Billiat and Marshall Munetsi in the opening half-hour as Lesotho more than held their own and Sera flashed a ball across goal that just needed a touch from a fellow attacker to give them the lead.
Zimbabwe finally created a scoring chance in the box a minute before the break, but striker Abbas Amidu's first touch let him down and Lesotho goalkeeper Likano Mphuthi was able to narrow the angle and avert danger.
Both sides had half-chances in the early stages of the second period, but substitute Tinotenda Kadewere might have done better when he had a free header eight yards from goal but steered it wide of goal.
A frenetic final 10 minutes saw the action move from end to end, but neither side could find a winner and penalties were needed to decide the tie.
It followed a narrow win for Zambia over Madagascar, though in fairness Chipolopolo had more than enough chances to seal a more handsome victory.
Madagascar saw most of the ball in the first half but they battled to create clear-cut scoring opportunities against a well-organised Zambian defence.
And it was the dangerous Zambians who took the lead as they proved more incisive with the ball as Clatous Chota Chama fed the dangerous Kambole in the box and the strike buried his shot in the bottom corner with a neat finish.
Tsito Razafindrasata had a headed chance early in the second period for the Malagasy, while Chota Chama first fired wide from the edge of the box and then scooped the ball over the bar from close-range with a little over 10 minutes to go.
Chota Chama then set up Ronald Kampamba, who appeared destined to secure a second for Zambia, but Jean Marobe produced a brilliant block.
There was an even better stop on the line seconds later from Malagasy skipper Andriamirado Andrianarimanana as the unlucky Kampamba was denied again.
Madagascar's cause was not helped when substitute Andriamanjato Tokifandresena received a second booking and was sent-off with two minutes remaining.
There was an amazing passage of play in the dying seconds as Zambia had three players bearing down on Malagasy goalkeeper Jean Dieu Randrianasolo, but John Ching'andu selfishly tried to chip the keeper rather than pass to a teammate for what would have been a certain goal. His effort was saved and it proved the final opportunity of the game.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football