The Chipolopolo of Zambia regained leadership of Group C of the qualifying series for the 2012 Nations Cup after a 2-1 win over Comoros in Moroni on Sunday. Libya took temporary leadership of the qualifying pool on Saturday following a 1-0 win in Cairo, Egypt, over Mozambique. However, Zambia are back on top of the pile after the late win in Comoros.
They have 12 points from five matches, a point ahead of the North Africans. Mozambique are third in the standings with four points, while Comoros are bottom on a point. Zambia could now qualify for next year’s tournament proper in fine style next month as they host Libya in their final qualifying fixture.
The Libyans won the reverse game 1-0 last October. On Sunday, Chris Katongo got Zambia going after 23 minutes, but the home team restored parity on 32 minutes through Yousouf Mchangama. Emmanuel Mayuka, a second-half substitute for Collins Mbesuma, gave Zambia a hard-earned victory with his match winner two minutes from time. “Man, we won one tough game!” Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene said in a post-match interview from Comoros. And he was right.
It wasn’t easy. This was not the same Comoros whom they trounced 4-0 exactly a year ago on September 5 at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka. Comoros looked ready and obviously propelled by their 1-1 draw with Libya in June. Zambia’s attacking trio Collins Mbesuma, Christopher Katongo and James Chamanga were shackled by some mean Comoros defence.
Comoros also refused to sit back and rattled Zambia’s defence with waves of attack several times in the first half. Respite for Zambia arrived on 23 minute through Katongo who blasted in a shot after bulldozing his was through a forest of Comoros defenders. However, Comoros replied 10 minutes later through Yousouf Mchangama who made a powerful run from outside the box to plant the ball past Mweene to see the two sides go 1-1 into the break. Zambia came back strongly after the break but still could not find inroads as Comoros this time sat back to absorb the pressure.
The visitors’ most significant effort of the second period came from Mbesuma in the 50th minute. Mbesuma powered with the ball from halfway through Comoros on half into the box releasing it for unmarked 46th minute substitute Fwayo Tembo, but the FC Basel striker failed to read his intentions. That was Mbesuma’s last major contribution to the game and he was replaced by Mayuka of Young Boys in the 65th minute. Comoros held on despite Zambia looking recharged with the substitutes. But Mayuka still had the last laugh virtually with Chipolopolo’s last wave of attack in the 88th minute when he finished off a rebound shot from Chamanga.