PROLIFIC striker Winston Kalengo yesterday stole the limelight as Zambia took a giant leap into storming the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers third round after recording a rare away victory over Sudan in the first leg, second round clash played in Karima.
The result saw the Chipolopolo break the winless streak against the Falcons of Jediane on their turf that stretches back from 1968 when the two sides clashed in the Mexico 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
With the return leg billed for Levy Mwanawasa Stadium this Sunday, the Chipolopolo are firmly in command and will need a goalless draw to advance to the next round.
Despite arriving in Karima 24 hours before kickoff, the Chipolopolo never showed any signs of fatigue as they put up a strong challenge throughout the game to deservedly earn a win.
Notwithstanding the hard and dry pitch proving to be a menace for the Chipolopolo during the early exchanges, ‘Chicken’
George Lwandamina’s men quickly adapted and were on the front foot with striker Collins Mbesuma instrumental in the middle of the pack.
Kalengo rose to the occasion when a goal seemed unlikely for the Chipolopolo, capitalising on Sudan’s defensive lapse to finish off Lubambo Musonda’s harmless cross on 28 minutes.
The in-form striker calmly buried the ball in an empty net after goalkeeper Akram El Hadi committed but missed the ball to gift Kalengo an easy goal.
Sudan had the best chance to grab the lead through Saeed Moustafa but his header bounced off the ground in front of Kennedy Mweene and out for a goal kick in the 17th minute.
Skipper Rainford Kalaba, who was a silent figure in the game, was denied by the cross bar in the 31st minute and failed to connect the rebound before El Hadi recovered to deal with the threat as the game went into the break with Zambia in the lead.
Sudan came back from half-time on a strong note to push for an equaliser but the Chipolopolo held firm to their advantage. Madina Bakri came close to restore parity in the 50th minute but alert Mweene produced a superb save to protect Zambia’s lead.
Lwandamina withdrew Kabaso Chongo and replaced him with Donashano Malama to add some steel in defense five minutes later as Zambia sucked pressure from the wounded Falcons.
Kalengo would have scored his second but fired wide on 88 minutes with only El Hadi to beat while hardworking Mbesuma kept frustrating the Falcons with his intelligent runs to the corner flag.
Meanwhile, SANDRA MWILA reports that Zambia’s participation at the 2015 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup is in doubt owing to the overwhelming Chipolopolo fixtures.
The Chipolopolo have been invited to take part in the CECAFA tournament slated to start on November 21 in Ethiopia but the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) is yet to decide on the request.
Zambia has been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Ethiopia, Tanzania and Somalia.
FAZ communications manager Nkweto Tembwe said in an interview yesterday that a decision was yet to be made concerning sending a team to Ethiopia.
Tembwe said FAZ was still weighing its options as the Chipolopolo had a number of engagements during the same period citing the African Under-23 Championship that kicks off on November 28 and the Rwanda 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) final in January.
“Yes, we received an invite from CECAFA which is still under consideration. We are yet to make a decision because we have to weigh our options and go for what’s best for the Chipolopolo,” he said.
Zambia has won the CECAFA tournament three times in 1984, 1991 and 2006.