DREAM OVER – AS ZAMBIA FAILS TO BEAT EQUATORIAL GUINEA IN MUST – WIN RETURN AT HEROES
By MICHAEL MIYOBA
ZAMBIA’S dream to qualify for the 2022 Qatar World Cup died a natural death after the Chipolopolo failed to beat Equatorial Guinea following a 1-1 draw in yesterday’s Group B fixture at Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
The Chipolopolo needed a victory to redeem their chances of qualifying for the World Cup but were wasteful upfront despite having created numerous scoring opportunities which would have seen them win with more than five goals.
The Chipolopolo dominated play from the first whistle with Larry Bwalya coming close to breaking the deadlock in the first minute of the game.
The former Power Dynamos midfielder was unfortunate as he sent his effort over the bar.
The Chipolopolo had the lion’s share of ball possession as Equatorial Guinea chased shadows before striker Emilio Lopez tried his luck with a shot which went straight into the arms of Chipolopolo goalkeeper Mwenya Chibwe.
Midfielder Kelvin Kampamba missed a golden chance to put Zambia ahead in the 12th minute but failed to find the back of the net after he was set up by Fashion Sakala.
Fashion had his chance to find the back of the net in the 19th minute but failed to slot it in after being set up by Cletus Chama.
Captain Lubambo Musonda had a great game on the right wing were he set up Fashion Sakala with a sublime cross in the 27th minute but the Glasgow Rangers FC striker sent his shot wide.
Emmanuel Banda also had a chance to put Zanbia ahead but rushed to send his shot way over the bar on the half-hour mark.
Zambia continued to be wasteful in the first half with Fashion sending his effort straight into the arms of the goalkeeper 10 minutes before the break.
Another golden chance for Zambia to find the back of the net came in the 38th minute when Larry Bwalya’s sublime shot was parried for a corner before Cletus Chama saw his effort on target being saved by the goalkeeper as the first stanza ended goalless.
In the second half, Zambia continued to dictate play and created chances which were not utilised.
Coach Beston Chambeshi made his first change in the 59th minute, replacing Kelvin Kampamba for Edward Chilufya and the Chipolopolo came close in the 60th minute through Benedict Chepeshi who was unlucky to see his shot being blocked for a conner before Lubambo missed another chance with a shot straight into the arms of the goalkeeper.
The Chipolopolo were able to finally break the deadlock two minutes after the hour mark through Fashion Sakala who went past three defenders before he unleashed a powerful shot to send the 20, 000 fans who had trooped to Heroes Stadium into a frenzy.
Zambia suffered a setback in the 77th minute when holding midfielder Emmanuel Banda suffered an injury and was replaced by Kelvin Kapumbu.
The Chipolopolo were stunned in the 82nd minute when defender Federico Bikoro rose high to head in the equaliser from a conner kick.
Chambeshi made desperate changes in the dying minutes of the game, bringing in Moses Phiri for midfielder Cletus Chama but it was too late for the Zanaco top man to make a difference.
The draw frustrated coach Chambeshi who attributed it to his boys’ failure to find the back of the net after creating numerous scoring opportunities.
The stalemate escalated Equatorial Guinea to seven points while Zambia moved to four points from one win, two defeats and one stalemate.