Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
IT WAS a match for the strong-hearted and not high blood pressure-patients.
Zambians kept their fingers crossed throughout 90 minutes until victory was finally attained after twice coming from behind.
At the end of the match, the scoreboard read: Zambia 3 Botswana 2, just enough for the Chipolopolo to qualify to the last round, where they will face eSwatini for a slot at the 2020 Cameroon African Nations Championship (CHAN) finals.
The first leg in Francistown ended 0-0, which made Saturday’s return match such a tricky fixture.
But truth be told, the Chipolopolo defence on Saturday was a let-down. The two goals Botswana scored could have been avoided had the defenders put in a good shift.
The defence of Simon Silwimba, Mwila Phiri, skipper Adrian Chama and Clement Mwape was not communicating.
Botswana could have won the match by a cricket margin had they been clinical at goal.
Going forward, the Aggrey Chiyangi-led Chipolopolo technical bench should sort out the defensive lapses.
Chama failed to marshal his defenders and we should count ourselves lucky that Botswana only managed to score two goals.
Goalkeeper Sebastian Mwange was also to blame for the two goals he conceded.
With the country looking for a replacement for veteran Kennedy Mweene, who has been capped 120 times, Mwange looked far from the man to replace the 34-year-old Africa Cup winner.
The Green Eagles goalkeeper made a number of mistakes and should also count himself lucky that Zambia are still in the CHAN race.
Playmaker Larry ‘Ozil’ Bwalya put in a good shift but defensive midfielder Benson Sakala was guilty of stray passes on a number of occasions.
It was Bwalya who was fouled and midfielder Kelvin Mubanga unleashed a grass-cutter for Zambia’s equaliser to make it 2-2.
Mubanga had a good game as he set up Emmanuel Chabula for the first goal and Bruce Musakanya for the clincher.
Nkana star Mubanga put in a decent shift and he should be considered for the senior Chipolopolo for the 2021 Cameron Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers kicking off in November this year.
Right-winger Ernest ‘Altezza’ Mbewe was a shadow of himself and I wondered why coach Chiyangi persisted with him in the first half.
Mbewe’s replacement, Musakanya, was the game changer and it was not surprising that he scored the winning goal.
“As a player, I wanted to prove myself and I did what the coach [Aggrey Chiyangi] told me to do. I am happy that I scored the winning goal. I knew we needed to win,” Musakanya said in an interview at National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka on Saturday.
Despite not finding the net, striker Tapson Kaseba gave Botswana defenders a torrid time.
He harassed the defenders and he was unfortunate not to score when he fired wide a Silwimba cross in the second half.
Chabula justified his inclusion and I am sure he won the trust of the technical bench.
In the first leg in Francistown, the Nkwazi striker was introduced as a second-half substitute but he has now earned the right to be in the starting line-up against eSwatini.
Otherwise, congratulations to Zambia but may the preparations for the match against eSwatini get under way immediately.
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Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI