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Jordan Zemura shines in battle against Saka

by Staff reporter
06 Mar 2023 at 05:13hrs | Views
FOOTBALL can be very cruel.

For Warriors' Jordan Zemura's struggling English Premier League football side AFC Bournemouth, the game cannot be more painful than taking the lead with the first attack and losing that game with the final attack at their own end.

The Dorset club have consequently dropped to the foot of the table despite throwing a spirited show in their 3-2 defeat by leaders Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon.

That the Cherries were even 2-0 up 57 minutes into the game and threw away that lead only adds to the disappointment.

But there was no taking away the passionate fight and overall discipline from Gary O'Neil's charges. And Zimbabwean defender Zemura, particularly, starred in his usual left channel where he has operated in for the 19 appearances he has notched up this season.

Of course, he was pulled out for Ryan Fredricks in the 64th minute with the Dorset club still leading the encounter 2-1.

Yet the Zimbabwean never put a foot wrong the entire period he was tasked with pinning down Arsenal talisman Bukayo Saka with incredible authority. Going into the match, Saka was touted as the likely match-winner, as he has always been for Arsenal this season.

Zemura got the nod to start and naturally that was a vote of confidence for the Zimbabwean to track down Saka.

And the Zimbabwean utility star never disappointed. His timed runs and tackles effectively as he frustrated the England international much to the delight of the travelling Cherries fans. Thousands of kilometres away in Africa, Zimbabwean football enthusiasts were glued to their televisions sets, especially in sports bars and at sports clubs, cheering and applauding every move by Zemura, who is now the only Zimbabwean player playing in the English Premier League after Marvelous Nakamba moved down to the second-tier Sky Bet English Championship recently.

Naturally, Zemura is now the local fans' favourite.

But on Saturday, the task was of course exhausting given Saka's nimbleness and unpredictability with O'Neil probably considering the 23-year-old Warriors man needed some rest when replacing him with Fredricks in the 64th minute.

However, Bournemouth conceded a second goal six minutes after the substitution.

And then Reiss Nelson pierced the Cherries hearts scoring with virtually the last kick of the match to condemn Bournemouth to the basement of the English Premiership table.

O'Neil expressed disappointment after the match.

"Of course, bitterly disappointed at this moment, as are the players and I'm sure the supporters. "To put in that match work and effort and push the team that are five points clear at the top of the league that close at their stadium, it was a huge effort from everybody.

"Most teams come here and get dispatched fairly easily and we didn't," he told reporters.

"We put up a really good fight. Gutted for the players and everyone connected with the club that we suffered a late blow.

"Arsenal are the best team in the league. They are five points clear. We knew we needed to be solid, we knew they would dominate the ball. We knew we would need to defend."

And Zemura was a solid part of that defensive gargle, cancelling Saka from the larger part of the equation with aplomb.

He executed his blocks and slides really well and deservedly earned a 70 percent rating in a match which, with a bit of luck, could have seen him clipping his second assist of the season.

The Zimbabwean simply stuck to his task, smothering everything that Saka and his Gunners peers threw at the Cherries.

Only opening-goal scorer Philip Billing, who was the most outstanding individual in the field with his masterclass interpretation of and execution of a box-to-box player, was rated better than the Zimbabwean with an 80 percent rating to his name.

Despite his impressive performance, pinning down arguably the best player in the English Premier League at the moment, Zemura was left a disappointed man.

His team's defeat, coupled with Southampton's shock win over Leicester late on Saturday, left the O'Neil coached team sitting in last place on the English Premier League standings. "It was a good overall performance by the team. The game-plan was top-class and as a team, we did very well.

"Arsenal are never easy opponents. We came into this match fully aware of what we needed to do to contain them. We threw everything and absorbed all the pressure they exerted. "We had them under lock and key and it's a game you would feel we should have taken something out of," said Zemura.

"But then we conceded late in the match to surrender all the points. It's a match that saw a lot of positives and we hope we will be able to survive.

"We are now sitting at the basement of the table which is a very disappointing position. But we know we should fight on, throw the punches as much as we can and see what happens. The priority is to survive and we have every reason to be confident.

"As an individual, of course, being part of a wall that shut out Saka was a plus but we need to put in more work."

Bournemouth play Liverpool next at home this coming Saturday in another stern test of their survival credentials.

Source - The Herald