Football Sport

Zesco United can qualify for Champions League final

Bola Biz
RENOWNED American tele-evangelist Bishop Thomas Dexter (TD) Jakes sometime speaks to millions over the small screen with a disclaimer that, “I have not come to talk to everybody.”
Within the confines of these pages, let me address Zesco United. When Pitso Mosimane moaned upon setting foot on Zambian soil, I suspected the Mamelodi Sundowns boss was preparing his defence after defeat.
Mosimane suggested George Lwandamina’s side has been helped by the Andrew Kamanga- led Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) by being allowed to skip some local league matches to concentrate on the lucrative continental competition.
In front of the biggest crowd so far in this competition at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium, the semi-final first leg revved to life from the off.
Jesse Jackson Were was denied by Dennis Onyango in quick succession. In the East African affair, the Uganda goalkeeper dressed bizarrely in Kappa kit socks and Puma for the rest his outfit foiled the Kenya striker, much to the chagrin of all and sundry Zesco.
Those early brave interventions by Onyango kept Sundowns breathing. Zambia number one Kennedy Mweene, who was on the bench ahead of Wayne Sandilands in Ndola, remains rooted and rotting there.
On the evidence of this Onyango early show, there is no suggestion Mweene will see any action soon.
But after the break, even the mighty powers of Onyango were tamed. Right back Simon Silwimba tied Thabo Nthethe into knots before whacking a wicked cross into the area. Mwanza glanced it past the Ugandan in deadly fashion. It was sublime soccer.
Barely 120 seconds later, it was Mwanza again with his fourth of the campaign. This goal was made in Zambia too like the first one. A Mwape Mwelwa cleverly struck free-kick was flicked by the former Sudan-based striker past the bewildered Onyango who appealed unsuccessfully for offside.
Zesco’s showing was in keeping with the ‘King’ George Lwanadamina tradition in this competition.
The formation has been the same. A flat back four with Silwimba, Ayo Oluwafemi, Ben Adama Bahn and David Owino Odhiambo in front of Jacob Banda.
The duo holding role had Misheck Chaila and Kondwani Mtonga deployed. Then there was Mwelwa and John Ching’andu supporting Mwanza and Were.
At 2-0 perhaps Lwandamina should have decided to park the bus. But he did not. The three substitutions were all like for like: Idris Mbombo replaced a tiring Mwanza, Anthony Agay Akumu went in for Mtonga and Matthews Nkhowani was introduced for Ching’andu. May be Dauti Musekwa could have been considered for the final substitution.
Khama Billiat’s brilliant goal three minutes from time illustrates lack of defensive discipline. Substitute Anthony Laffor spotted the Zimbabwe international in acres of space on the right of Zesco’s defence. Billiant, virtually a free man of Ndola, had time to pick his spot.
The 26-year-old’s shot kissed the post before gently sliding past the beaten Banda into the warm inviting net.
It was so punitive as the Sundowns strike came immediately after Mbombo spurned a glorious opportunity to put the tie to bed with the third goal.
To remind ourselves, the five-time champions of Zambia are yet to keep a clean sheet in this competition. Their 53-year-old boss, a former defender in his heyday, must teach his charges the art of closing the bedroom door.
Sundowns need to score in Pretoria on Saturday for them to qualify. The Brazilians sunk to a new low with Saturday’s defeat.
It is the first time since 2014 that Sundowns have not won in three consecutive matches.
That is why Mosimane was moaning on arrival in Zambia. He claims his side is not fresh.
And stats do not favour the South Africans either. Radio Phoenix sports presenter Puncherello Chama researched data in the last two years shows that 16 out of 24 times that a club has taken a 2-1 lead in the second leg in continental club competitions that team has progressed. It is a toll order for Sundowns.
Don’t tell Mosimane that when he was 33-years-old Sundowns visited Zambia. They lost 2-1 at Nkana Stadium with Gift Kampamba and Musole Sakulanda scoring for the hosts.
The return ended goalless. Nkana progressed to the quarter-finals of the CAF Cup Winners Cup in 1998.
If Sundowns are stale, Zesco with the pace of Were and the industry of the returning Clatous Chota Chama can head closer to that US$1.5 million boon.
For the record, it is the first time a Zambian club has reached this far in this competition under this format introduced in 1997. However, Nkana holds the record for most appearances (6) in the semi-finals in the previous format including contesting the 1990 final.
Like T.D Jakes sometimes says this missive is not for everybody. It is for the Zambia representatives who can qualify as one foot is already in the final.

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