Mozambique 0 Zambia 1
ZAMBIA yesterday beat Mozambique to qualify to the Equatorial Guinea 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene and the goal by Given Singuluma.
Mweene denied Mozambique from the spot after Gabonese referee Eric Otogo Castane awarded the hosts a ‘dubious’ penalty before Singuluma scored seven minutes later to send the Chipolopolo back to Equatorial Guinea where it all started from, towards winning the 2012 Africa Cup.
A moment of silence was observed for the late Zambian president Michael Sata, who died in London and was put to rest on Tuesday last week in Lusaka, and there was a huge applause after the whistle was blown.
“I want to dedicate this victory and qualification to the late President Michael Sata and also dedicate to the people of Zambia. We felt that a win today will give a good send-off to our patron and hope this sits well with the Zambians who were in mourning,” Janza said after the game.
Janza expressed happiness with the players’ performance, while his Mozambican counterpart Joao Chissano blamed the loss on a missed penalty rather than the goal Zambia scored and congratulated the Chipolopolo.
The two wins on the trot mean that Zambia rise up to eight points, while Mozambique remain third on five points and the Chipolopolo qualify, regardless of the result in the last game.
Zambia can even afford to lose to Cape Verde and even if Mozambique beat Niger, they can tie with the Chipolopolo on eight points but lose out on the head-to-head rule CAF is using having picked four points off the Mambas.
Back on the pitch, the peak of the match came in the 67th minute when Singuluma struck a half volley sweetly from inside the box after being teed up by Rainford Kalaba to bring the 42, 000 capacity stadium to silence.
Mweene for the umpteenth time proved he was a big man between the sticks saving a penalty from club mate Elias Pelembe by sticking his leg out, while diving to stop the ball in a match to decide who qualifies for the Africa Cup.
The penalty came after the ball hit Emmanuel Mbola on the knee as he took a squatting position but the referee ruled that the left back handled inside the box and awarded the spot-kick.
That decision evoked the memories of Jean-Fidele Diramba who created controversy in Zambia’s 1-0 defeat to Morocco to miss out on qualifying for the FIFA 1998 World Cup finals in France.
But soon after that miss, Zambia raised the tempo to finish off the work of the first half which belonged to Singuluma and Kalaba with the TP Mazembe pair making Zambia look dangerous from the first whistle.
With a noisy sea of red shirts in the stands, Zambia never looked like imposing themselves on the match in the early stages and this seemed only to intimidate a few inexperienced Chipolopolo players.
The Chipolopolo survived a scare in the seventh minute when Mweene spilled Pelembe’s free kick but Nyambe Mulenga was on hand to clear the lines in a desperate attempt.
Meanwhile, Mozambicans fans were left to curse their best player Pelembe after the loss which blew their chances of making 2015 AFCON finals, especially after he missed the penalty.
Prior to the game, Mozambican fans on the streets kept taunting Zambia about how dangerous and devastating Pelembe would be especially that Stopilla Sunzu was not playing.
Miguel Martinez, who stayed at the VIP Hotel where the Chipolopolo were booked, was dumbfounded after the result but teased that Zambia got a lot of help from Pelembe, whom he said was not in good form.
Zambia starting line-up: Kennedy Mweene, Emmanuel Mbola, Donashano Malama (Davies Nkausu), Chris Munthali, Nyambe Mulenga, Nathan Sinkala, Bruce Musakanya (Lubambo Musonda), Given Singuluma, Emmanuel Mayuka (Evans Kangwa), Ronald Kampamba, Rainford Kalaba
Unused subs-Danny Munyao, Aaron Katebe, Chisamba Lungu and Spencer Sautu.
Referee: Eric Otogo Castaney
Times of Zambia