Malawi fans, crammed inside Mpira Stadium at Chiwembe Township, Blantyre, for obvious reasons, rallied behind Mozambique but it was Zambia who claimed the Cosafa Under-17 Championship yesterday.
It was the second time in the history of the regional
championship that Zambia, who beat Malawi 3-2 to antagonise the home fans, won the championship.
Nonetheless, the unpredictable Malawi fans danced and chanted Zambia! Zambia! as the young Chipolopolo players danced while celebrating facing the southern terraces before lifting and throwing their coach Osward Mutapa up.
Mozambique started the game on the front foot but leading scorer Simon Ciprino blazed his effort over the bar after a fine delivery from the left wing in the 12th minute by left winger Miguel Muchanga.
Zambia opted for patience and soaked up the pressure on the greasy artificial turf while waiting for the right moment to strike.
However, the game petered out to a goalless draw in the first half.
That moment arrived in the 52nd minute when Zambia finally got the breakthrough. Winger Joseph Banda slotted the ball calmly into the net Julius Kumwenda had rolled the ball into his path following Mozambique goalkeeper Kimiss Zavala’s fumble of Banda’s initial shot. Banda was named man of the match.
The goal came after quick one-twos involving Peter Chikola and Kumwenda down the left avenue.
Seven minutes later, Chikola’s contribution to the game ended as Malawian referee Godfrey Nkhakananga red carded the player for Zambia after he slashed down Mozambique defender Elton Tembe which chasing for ball possession.
Zambia coach Osward Mutapa responded to the numerical disadvantage by making a defensive re-enforcement, bringing in Charles Mumba to replace Kumwenda whereas Mozambique mentor Jose Matine hauled out Antonio Gumbane to step in for Guilherme Lazaro.
Mozambique failed to make their numbers count as Zambia put more white shirts behind the ball on a humid afternoon while relying on counterattacking play which dribbling wizard Banda epitomized.
Zambia finally killed the game as a contest as Moses Mulenga ziz-gaged his way past bemused Mozambique defenders before deflecting his path to Rickson Ng’ambi who finished off the move with telling ease in the 74th minute.
Zambia dominated the eight-member competition in every respect. They were the highest scoring team, netting 18 goals and letting in two.
Ironically, it was only Malawi that managed to score against Zambia.
However, Malawi were reduced to spectators on home soil after their 3-0 win over hopeless South Africa was watered down by the 2-1 and 3-2 losses to eSwatini and Zambia.
Cosafa president Phillip Chiyangwa, Malawi sports Minister Francis Phiso, sports director Kinnah Phiri and Football Association of Malawi president Walter Nyamilandu graced colourful prize giving ceremony right on the pitch.
Simon Cipriano (Mozambique), Ng’ambi and Angola’s Valdemiro Domingo’s shared top scorer award after bagging five each. Moses Mulenga won player of tournament award.
In a third-place play-off played at the same venue in an early kick-off, Angola thrashed eSwatini, who beat Malawi 2-1 in group stages, 5-0.
Peter Kanjere is a versatile Journalist currently working for Times Group as Assistant Editor for The Daily Times.
With vast experience in the industry, he is also an accomplished Sports Analyst, whose exploits in sports reporting and analysis span beyond the length and breadth of the African continent.