Zimbabwe captain Knowledge Musona hit a hat-trick as his new-look national side beat Liberia 3-0 in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Harare on Sunday.
In other results on Sunday, Kwesi Appiah’s second spell as Ghana coach began with a 5-0 thrashing of Ethiopia in Kumasi.
The twelve group winners plus the best three group runners-up will qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations along with the hosts Cameroon.
Knowledge Musona took over the Zimbabwe captaincy for the Group G game against Liberia after Willard Katsande – who had skippered the Warriors at this year’s Nations Cup in Gabon – was dropped.
Belgium-based Musona’s first strike came on 24 minutes, with Zimbabwe taking that one-goal advantage into the break.
His second came just five minutes into the second half and the Warriors captain was able to celebrate his hat-trick with a goal in the 63rd minute.
It was Zimbabwe’s first hat-trick in 13 years – Peter Ndlovu was the last man to achieve the feat.
The result puts Zimbabwe top of Group G, after DR Congo beat Congo Brazzaville 3-1 on Saturday.
Zimbabwe are targeting a fourth appearance at the Nations Cup finals.
Ghana also heralded in a new era as coach Kwesi Appiah returned for a second spell in charge of the Black Stars who duly began their Group F campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Ethiopia in Kumasi.
Captain Asamoah Gyan began the rout with a landmark strike in the 10th minute – his 50th goal for his country.
Just four minutes later, John Boye added a second with Ebenezer Ofori making it 3-0 to Ghana on his debut just before half-time.
After the break, a Raphael Dwamena brace made it 5-0 to the hosts who are looking for their first Nations Cup title since 1982.
Uganda’s Geoffrey Sserunkuma struck late in their delayed Group L match away to Cape Verde as the Cranes – despite their travel problems – secured a big 1-nil victory away from home.
A solitary goal from Stephane Sessegnon was enough for Benin to take an early lead in Group D after their 1-0 win at home to the Gambia.
In Group H, a late goal from Salif Keita earned Central African Republic a 2-1 win over Rwanda on Sunday.
CAR took the lead in the 70th minute through Junior Gourrier, but AS Vita Club striker Earnest Sugira equalised for the visitors right at the death.
Just when the Amavubi thought they had secured a valuable point on the road, Keita struck CAR’s winner in the third minute of added time to snatch all three points.