NKANA yesterday qualified to the lucrative group stage of the 2014 Orange CAF Confederation Cup after dumping out Club Athletique Bizertin of Tunisia thanks to an away goal rule in the second leg of the knock out stage at the Stade du 15 October in Bizerte.
A Derrick Mwansa’s 80th minute penalty was all Nkana needed to restore parity after the Tunisian side had grabbed an early lead in the 21st minute courtesy of a Billy Mwanza own goal.
Earlier, Nkana goalkeeper Rabson Mucheleng’anga conceded a penalty but redeemed himself by making a save to deny Bizertin a two-goal cushion with just a minute played in the second half.
Nkana had to endure late pressure following the minutes of added time as they held on to their advantage till the final whistle.
Having played for a goalless draw in the reverse fixture in Kitwe, the Zambian champions needed a scoring draw to progress to the group stages of the competition and also become the second club to do so after Zesco United achieved that feat in the group stage of the CAF Champions League in 2010.
Coach Masautso Mwale fielded his strongest squad with Mwanza and Christopher Munthali commanding the backline while skipper Sydney Kalume, Donashano Malama and Shadreck Musonda were on hand to supply the frontline comprising Ronald ‘Sate Sate’ Kampamba and Simon Bwalya.
The draw came at a cost as the Zambian contingent was attacked by irate Bizertin fans. Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) treasurer Kelvin Mutafu, who was also delegation leader, bemoaned the poor security situation at Stade du 15 October as the Zambian delegation was attacked by irate fans when the game was still in progress.
Mutafu said in an interview that the Zambian contingent had to be escorted to their hotel amid tight security as the homes fans threatened to stone the team.
He was, however, impressed with the performance of the team saying they had broken the tag that has seen Zambian teams being eliminated from the CAF interclub competitions by their North African counterparts. ”Nkana players accounted themselves well especially when they went down in the first half, they put up a spirited fight except that the referee was biased, otherwise we are happy with this result and it is good for Zambian football,’ he said.
Nkana will know their opponents in the group stage tomorrow.