By Sports Reporter
Zambia yesterday squandered their chances of toping group E after drawing 1-1 against Congo Brazzaville in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification at the New Kintele Stadium in Brazzaville.
Zambia started the game cautiously in a match the Chipolopolo missed towering defender Stophilla Sunzu who was suspended after accumulating two yellow cards in the qualifiers with Buchizya Mfune replacing him.
The opening exchanges saw very little action on either side with Zambia’s first chance coming in the 16th minute when Rainford Kalaba sent an in-swinger from a corner kick with the burly Collins Mbesuma already outstretched, and ready to pounce on the ball, but Congo Brazzaville goalkeeper dealt with it before it landed on the ground.
Zambia continued pressing forward with right winger Lubambo Musonda raining havoc on the Congolese defenders but failed to break the deadlock as the hosts remained resolute at the back.
Congo came close to finding the back of the net with only five minutes to half time with Francis Ntsayi pouncing on a pinpoint pass to round off two Zambian defenders but his final touch went begging.
However, it was at the restart of the game that the Chipolopolo Boys found themselves trailing after Ntsayi found the back of the net in the confusion of clearances and counter-shots following a corner which the defenders failed to deal with decisively with Kennedy Mweene sprawled to the ground.
The goal sparked Congo to life as the front-liners came brazing for another goal and would have doubled the lead with numerous attempts after the lead forcing Chipolopolo coach George Lwandamina to bring on Christopher Katongo for Jack Chirwa in the 50th minute.
However, Congo continued with their onslaught and would have doubled their advantage on the 59th minute when their number 11 took advantage of the situation as the defenders were caught ball-watching but was denied by Mweene’s outstretched leg for a corner which was subsequently cleared to safety.
Conlyde Luchanga was introduced for hardworking Musonda with 20 minutes to play and immediately made an impact, forcing the Congolese goalkeeper into a smart save. Kalaba then teed up Winstone Kalengo in the box and the former Zesco hit man made no mistake with a glancing header which came off the inside of the post before crossing the line and bouncing back with Mbesuma ensuring that the goal counted. A see-saw performance characterised the last 20 minutes of the game with both teams looking for a winner but Zambia came close to stealing the lime-light with Mbesuma hitting the upright after beating four defenders towards the end of the game.
The draw saw the Chipolopolo relegated to the third position with six points, joint with the Congo Brazzaville, but separated by an inferior goal difference.
Guinea-Bissau occupies top slot on seven points after beating Kenya 1-0 in a controversial game played at the Nyayo National stadium yesterday.
Zambia will play Guinea-Bissau on June 3 in that country.