ROBINSON KUNDA, Heroes Stadium, Lusaka
ZAMBIA 1 SOUTH AFRICA 0
ZAMBIA last night left it late to edge South Africa and reach the final of the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations in a rollercoaster that failed the quality test until the goal.
Midfielder Edward Chilufya set himself apart when he glanced in a Prosper Chiluya free-kick in the 108th minute to settle a tie that teetered all evening.
The goal was so sweet that it got President Lungu and the 50,000 soccer fans off their feet to celebrate the countryâ€™s first-ever final in age-restricted competitions.
South Africa skipper Tercious Malepe brought down striker Patson Daka on the edge of the box and Chiluya sent in an inviting cross that Chilufya headed in for Zambia to record the third win over the Amajita within three months.
Chilufya, Daka and Fashion Sakala have netted three times apiece, one behind South Africa forward Luther Singh who was anonymous yesterday.
But if there will be any excuse the South Africans may proffer for the loss, it may be the teargas that was peppered into the stadium, forcing officials to stop the match for about three minutes.
The South Africans snuffed Zambiaâ€™s rhythm and reduced Beston Chambeshiâ€™s boys – who have been outstanding – to ordinary participants, forcing extra-time.
They played with some crisp and grit and it was difficult for Zambia to employ their free-flowing system. Some chances fell on the foot of a wasteful Boyd Musonda while Sakala paled in comparison to his exploits.
Fatigue could have set in early as Daka failed to tap in Emmanuel Bandaâ€™s cross in the fifth minute as the teams were sizing each other.
As the nerves settled, Sakala pounced on a loose ball and crossed but Daka hooked wide on 12 minutes.
The Amajita were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box in the 20th minute but Luther Singh blasted over the crossbar.
Sakala sent his shot wide on 23 minutes after a solo run and five minutes later, Emmanuel Bandaâ€™s low shot missed the target.
South Africa, who were using the wings to attack, tore apart the Zambian defence but Singh sent his shot into the dark sky on 34 minutes.
South Africa defender Sandile Mthetwa hacked Daka on the edge of the box in the 45th minute and Chilufyaâ€™s curling ball was headed for a corner.
On resumption, South Africa coach Thabo Senong introduced Kobamelo Kodisang for Nkanyiso Mayo to strengthen his side.
On 56 minutes, Chiluyaâ€™s corner found Mwepu unmarked but the Napsa Stars midfielderâ€™s header missed the upright.
Three minutes later, Daka was fouled on the edge of the box but Musonda shot wide.
Fashion jumped high to nod the ball over the crossbar from a Daka cross in the 65th minute.
Zambia goalkeeper Mangani Banda was called to duty on 67 minutes when he tipped Singhâ€™s free-kick for a corner. It was close.
South Africaâ€™s best chance to score saw Mthethwa head wide a Singh free-kick on 70 minutes, with Mangani at his mercy.
The Amajita continued pressing with Sibongakonke Mbatha blasting wide in the 71st minute from spitting distance.
Zambia coach Beston Chambeshi introduced Kenneth Kalunga for Emmanuel in the 77th minute in a tactical change that saw Fashion come into central attack.
Mwepu had his shot lazily hitting the crossbar in the 80th minute, off a South African defender.
Zambia pressed towards the end with Musonda shooting wide while South Africa goalkeeper Mondli Mpoto denied Daka in added time.
In the first half of extra time, Zambia were the better side with Fashion blasting into the sky after Mpoto had parried Mwepuâ€™s shot in the 100th minute.
Chilufyaâ€™s header from a Fashion cross zoomed over the crossbar with Mpotu beaten.
Tunisian referee Sadok Selmi stopped play in the 105th minute after police fired teargas canisters outside the stadium to disperse unruly fans who attempted to break a cordon and gain access into the stadium.
Then came the moment when Chiluya delivered a delicious cross that Chilufya directed into the net between the arms of a tumbling Mpoto.
Zambia will face the winner of todayâ€™s clash between Guinea and Senegal, with bookmakers highly favouring the latter.
ROBINSON KUNDA, Heroes Stadium, Lusaka