By Sports Reporter
ZAMBIA failed to fulfill President Edgar Lungu’s 2-0 prediction as Congo Brazzaville held them to a 1-1 draw in the 2017 Gabon Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) first leg qualifier yesterday after squandering several chances when the game should have been wrapped up in the first half.
The Zambian frontliners were jittery and appeared to be unsettled before a packed Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola despite the crowd cheering them all the way to the final whistle..
President Lungu, flanked by Minister of Sport Vincent Mwale and newly elected Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Andrew Kamanga, watched the Chipolopolo give away the game they should have won convincingly after taking a belated lead in the second half.
Zambia took the lead in the 61st minute through Winston Kalengo’s hard-fought effort between two defenders before unleashing the shot from inside the box but Congo equalised through Massengo in the 75th minute after a sloppy display by the hosts.
Congo has now taken the lead of Group E on five points together with Zambia but the Chipolopolo are separated by an inferior goal difference after allowing Congo score an important away goal.
Guinea Bissau moved to third place on four points after beating Kenya 1-0 who lie bottom on one point.
The Chipolopolo Boys started the first half on a high note, exhibiting good tactical skill and dominance of the Red Devils.
Skipper Rainford Kalaba, Lubambo Musonda, Collins Mbesuma and Winston Kalengo were a terror in the Congo half but they were also the major culprits when it came to putting the ball away.
Kalaba’s cracker in the fourth minute went wide as Zambia went in search of an early goal.
In the 21st minute, the Chipolopolo almost found the back of the net but Kalengo and Mbesuma’s attempt to convert Lubambo’s cross from inside the box failed miserably.
Zambia came close to breaking the deadlock on the 37th minute after a goal-bound scorcher from Mbesuma from outside the 18-yard box was parried by the goalkeeper and it fell at the feet of Lubambo Musonda who incredibly shot wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Three minutes later Christopher Katongo released Nathan Sinkala but his attempt hit the right post as fans stood up in disbelief.
Zambia came in full force in second half, mounting pressure on the Red Devil’s defence.
Christopher Katongo was substituted for Clatous Chama to solidify the midfield in the 53rd minute.
After Kalengo’s goal in the 60th minute, the Chipolopolo appeared to be complacent and Congo took advantage, causing havoc in the Zambian half.
Even after equalising, the Red Devils continued to press for a second goal while the Chipolopolo defenders were literally ball watching.
Congo hosts Zambia in Brazzaville in a return leg on Sunday.