Sport

Real worry for bad travellers Nkana

Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
“IF NKANA had defended well, they could have carried a two-goal lead to Tunisia,” Nkana fan Chilufya Mbita said after the Kitwe giants beat Tunisian side Club Sportif Sfaxien 2-1 in a Confederation Cup quarter-final first leg on Sunday.
If that was the end of the contest, Mbita and everyone associated with Nkana could have been celebrating.
But there is real worry that the goal Nkana conceded near the end of the match will go on to haunt them in Tunisia.
The reason is simple; Nkana have been awful on the road in continental competitions.
Other than the 2-1 win in Beira over Mozambican side Uniao Desportiva Songo in the CAF Champions League preliminary round, Nkana have had disastrous outings in Africa’s second-tier competition.
What is worse is not the fact that they have been losing, rather, it is margins with which they have been losing that are a strong source of concern.
In the Confederation Cup group stage, Nkana lost 2-0 to Zesco United in Ndola, 3-0 to Ghanaian side Asante Kotoko in Kumasi and 4-1 to Sudanese outfit Al Hilal in Khartoum.
In the CAF Champions League first round, Nkana lost 3-1 to Tanzanian side Simba in Dar es Salaam after winning 2-1 in the first leg.
Mbita and other Nkana sympathisers are justified to be worried; Nkana have conceded nine times on the road and only scored one.
These statistics can make any soccer fan think twice.
But Nkana have to believe in themselves and approach Sfaxien with a positive attitude.
Coach Beston Chambeshi should tilt his approach in away games to snap this miserable run. Until they concede that goal on Sunday, the semi-finals did not look that far.
Of course it will not be easy in the return fixture as North Africa always provides daunting challenge for any opposition.
For Nkana, a goalless draw will see them remain in the competition. But nicking in a goal early will be better.
Knowing the Arabs, they will go for an all-out attack in a bid to teach Nkana a football lesson.
Nkana should unleash an open game because the best form of defence is attack.
Since Sfaxien are chasing the game, Nkana should aim at catching the hosts on counterattack.
Nkana midfielders Shadreck Malambo, Duncan Otienno, Kelvin Mubanga and Freddy Tshimenga have the pace to punish Sfaxien. The latter two contributed a goal apiece in Kitwe.
Football being a fun odd game, Nkana can just unleash the unthinkable and make Zambians proud.
Nkana did it in the Confederation Cup playoff in January this year when they held Ivorian side San Pedro to a goalless draw in Abidjan after winning 3-0 in Kitwe.
Where there is a will, there is a way and Nkana can withstand pressure and progress to the semi-finals.
I can only wish the legendary side all the best as they fly the Zambian flag high in North Africa.
phiristeve4@gmail.com, sphiri@daily-mail.co.zm

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