In Mbabane Swallows 0 Zanaco 0 (2-3 on aggregate) –
ZAMBIAN champions, Zanaco yesterday sailed through to the first round of the 2013 Orange Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League after shutting out the vocal Mbabane Swallows of Swaziland before their partisan crowd at Somhlolo Stadium here.
Despite having a goal dissallowed, Zanaco, who had won the first leg of this preliminary round 3-2 in Lusaka, did just enough by getting a virgin draw away with Swallows to book a place to the next stage of Africa’s most prestigious club competition.
Zanaco’s prize for reaching the next stage is a tough assignment against South African champions, Orlando Pirates who have Zambian striker, Collins Mbesuma in their ranks with the first leg set for Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka on March 16.
The return leg will be played in Johannesburg on April 6.
As for Swallows, whose coach Nyanga ‘Crooks’ Hlophe had promised that Zanaco would be mauled at the ‘Lions’ Den’, it was the same familiar story of being ‘frozen’ at home and allowing the visitors to dictate terms in Mbabane.
Swallows have never gone beyond the preliminary stage of this competition.
There was jubilation in the Zanaco camp and the band of their travelling fans after the final whistle of this game which was marred by poor officiating which even the home supporters acknowledged.
The Zambians dominated the game especially in the second half where the home team never threatened.
It was Zanaco who should actually have come off with a convincing win after a dominant display but coach Keagan Mumba still remained positive and proud of his team especially the defence which starved off the home team.
“We played well, we never allowed them to get behind the defence and its not shocking because we have the strongest defence in the country. We have moved a step forward and that makes us happy,” he said.
Hlope conceded defeat and when reminded about the ‘Lions’ Den’ proclamation, he sheepishly said that “those were the words of a determined man who wanted to rally his troops.”
In a case that clearly exposed biased officiating, second half substitute Lee Ngoma crossed into the box for an on-rushing Davies Mwape on 57 minutes who cleverly flicked the ball over an advancing Swallows goalkeeper Ephraim Muzarura and into the back of the net but in a decision that even shocked the home fans, Botswana referee, Medupe Meshack belatedly blew for offside when first assistant referee Sodisamang Mushack’s flag was down.
And to rub salt to the wound, Ngoma was yellow carded for what was termed simulation when it seemed he was clipped as he lined up a shot in the box.
In the first half, Zanaco fended off early threats by the home side who opted to play long and high balls into the Zanaco box and with goalkeeper Racha Kola not picking up the high balls, Swallows were encouraged.
The Swallows attack was further pushed by the creation of five successive corners after just 20 minutes but with the Zanaco defence led by Kunda Mushota challenging every high ball, Zanaco easily soaked up the pressure and started building from the back.
Zanaco anchorman Samson Chilupe started dominating the midfield as the Lusaka side settled with Maunga Kabuku and an off form Henry Banda pressing well.
But from nowhere in the 30th minute, a long cross by Tonny Sabedze from the right was met at the far post by Bhede Mfunafuthi but his connection was weak and marginally went wide in one of the nervy moments for Zanaco that saw the entire defence shout at Kola.
But that just reminded Zanaco of how thin the rope they were walking on was and this jerked the bankers who now pushed forward and on 33 minutes, Mwape Musonda created himself some space inside the box and from a tight angle, he shot into the side netting.
Three minutes later, Roderick Kabwe fashioned some clever football, evaded his marker Palmer Madla and clipped the ball to a rampaging Davies Mwape who shielded off two defenders and smacked a hard shot that came off the upright with goalkeeper Ephraim Mazarura static.
Meanwhile, Zanaco have been threatened with a legal suit by Sibane Hotel management over remarks made after rejecting it as a sub-standard
place not befitting a team in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League.
Sibane Hotel management claim that Zanaco Football Club allegedly tarnished its image, after the bankers rejected the place for what they termed as poor services.
Zanaco on Friday rejected Sibane Hotel, which is next to the now shut but notorious ‘Why Not, If Not’ night spot ahead of their match against Mbabane Swallows at Somhlolo National Stadium.
Zanaco then moved to The George Hotel after lodging a complaint to the Swaziland Football Association.
According to the Sunday Times of Swaziland, the hotel management has requested an apology from Zanaco failure to which they will sue the team.
But Zanaco chairperson, Edward Mutale said an apology would not come from his club as the hotel was not among the three sanctioned by CAF.