Zambia off to a flying start

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 11:14:36 +0000

 

By Grace Chaile-Leosetsa, Michael Miyoba and Bennie Mundando

 

A STERLING performance from Under-20 midfielder Enock Mwepu and a telling moment of individual brilliance from man-of-the-match Patson Daka yesterday did it for Zambia in their AfCON opener against a resolute Guinea side which they beat 1-0 at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.

And Zambia has taken an early lead in Group A with three points after Egypt and Mali drew 0-0 at the same venue last evening.

The Junior Chipolopolo Boys failed to find their usual rhythm in the opening exchanges as complete passes were far apart and a subdued midfield failed to win and supply balls upfront, making Conlyde Luchanga, who was played as a lone striker, look like a stranger on the pitch as the team failed to make an immediate impact.

However, Zambia were the first ones to create a clear chance in the 11th minute as Daka’s commanding personality upfront forced Saklif Sylla into a foul few metres from the edge of the box which Solomon Sakala lofted into the box.

The ball fell gleefully at the feet of Daka but the on-coming Guinea goalkeeper Sekouba Camara blocked the ball before Daka could make a contact.

Zambia had another golden opportunity in the 21st minute after Edward Chilufya sent an in-swinger after Mamadouba Diaby initially cleared for a corner under pressure by the winger but the unmarked Daka narrowly headed wide.

Guinea then gained momentum after the half-hour mark and could have broken the deadlock in the 34th minute when Ibrahim Sylla released Momo Yansane on the right wing after beating Prosper Chiluya but Zambia’s goal-minder Mangani Banda made a spectacular diving save to wrestle the ball from Yansane.

Mwepu then found the back of the net five minutes later but it could not count as Luchanga was judged off-side before he was substituted for Emmanuel Banda a minute before half time.

Zambia came from the break more purposeful and came close to scoring three times within a minute with Banda, Daka and Mwepu coming close but it was Daka who inked his name on the score sheet on 47 minutes after ghosting into the area, eluded Mohamed Camara and shielded the ball from Mohamed Aly Camara and sent a grass-cutter which gave the goalkeeper no chance.

Speaking after the match, coach Beston Chambeshi described the victory as sweet.

“It wasn’t an easy game and the Guinea coach put up a good tactical approach to the game but I am happy with how the boys handled Guinea. Physically the boys proved they were in shape. I am happy we have won the first game. Mangani Banda was in his best form, he prevented Zambia from an embarrassment,” Chambeshi said.

Meanwhile, Guinea coach Diallo Mandjou said his side made mistakes, allowing Zambia to score the only goal.

“The boys played well in the first half, they really worked hard to balance the game but made a lot of mistakes.

We allowed a goal and our efforts to equalise were futile.

We will improve and definitely work on the mistakes noted. Mistakes should not be tolerated at a competitive tournament like this one.

They just have to work hard,” Mandjou said. Zambia plays Mali on Wednesday at 18:00 hours and Guinea plays Egypt before that at 15.00 hours.

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