ZAMBIA were last night booted out of the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers after losing 3-2 to West African side Guinea Bissau in a tightly contested match played at Estadio 24 de Setembro Stadium in Bissau.
A last minute goal in injury time by Toni Silva was enough to end Zambia’s journey to Gabon finals next year. The West Africans looked focused and took advantage of the porous Zambian defence to get closer to qualification.
Bissau could have opened the scores in the sixth minute but a close range shot was nicely saved by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
Zambia’s opportunity came in the ninth minute when Collins Mbesuma dribbled through the Bissau defence but goalkeeper Papa Mbaye was equal to the task.
However, Zambia suffered a setback in the 14th minute when Bissau was awarded a controversial penalty by Algerian referee Mehdi Abid Charef after defender Stopilla Sunzu was given a yellow card for trying to block defender Luis Zezinho.
Zezinho was up to his game with his spot kick sending Mweene in the opposite direction to put Bissau in the lead.
In the 25th minute, Zambia equalised after Mbesuma scored a classical goal from a Rainford Kalaba see through pass.
Bissau began to press for a second goal with Zezinho and Frederico Mendy giving Mweene a hard time as the Zambia’s defence remained unstable.
The West African’s chase for another goal paid off in the 36th minute when Mendy found the back of the net in what is viewed to be an off-side, hence Zambia losing concentration.
In the second half, Zambia upped her game with Christopher Katongo heading in Mbesuma’s cross to level matters in the 52nd minute.
Zambia sent a scare to Bissau in the 66th minute when Sunzu’s header from a Mbesuma corner kick slightly missed the post.
Coach George Lwandamina introduced Lubambo Musonda for exhausted Katongo to beef up the midfield. But the substitution did not yield results with the defence still shaky.
Substitute Brito ended Zambia’s hope of qualifying to the 2017 AFCON in added time when he dribbled through the defence with Adrian Chama making the chase while Mweene failed to save the day.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the Peter Makembo led Zambian fans stole the attention in Bissau upon arrival when the moved around town in pop and splendour.
The fans, some of whom climbed on top of the buses waving the Zambia flag, while others disembarked and opted to walk made noise as the locals joined in the chanting as some asked for Zambian shirts, scuffs and headdresses.