Zambia's flag bearers in the 2017 Caf Champions League Zanaco played out a goalless draw with APR FC of Rwanda in the first leg of their preliminary round tie played at Nkoloma Stadium on Saturday.
With little goal mouth action from both sides, the first effort on goal fell to Patrick Sibonana who forced a save out of Zanaco goalkeeper Racha Kola from a free kick on 24 minutes.
Zanaco's Saith Sakala came closest to breaking the deadlock for the hosts in the 39th minute but his snap shot went across the face of goal narrowly missing the far post after he was set up by Augustine Mulenga.
Three minutes later Sibomana saw his effort from a corner kick cleared off the line by Taonga Bwembya while in the 44th minute the lively APR set piece taker saw his effort hit the side netting.
Ten minutes after the break, Issa Bigirimana breach the Zanaco defense with a solo run on the counter but his finish was weak, allowing Kola to make a comfortable save.
Zanaco were the better side in terms attacking prowess in the last 25 minutes and it had to take Michel Rushesha Ngonga's alertness to block Augustine Mulenga's header at the far post following Bwembya's delivery into the area from the right flank in the 76th minute.
Despite the draw Zanaco coach Mumamba Numba remained upbeat saying his side had a 50-50 chance of progressing to the next round.
“I think we accounted ourselves very well against a good team which, like I had said early in the week, feeds the senior national team of Rwanda. We were tactically disciplined though in the first half we were jittery when they had one man upfront and we had four in defence; we should have pushed forward but we resorted to shooting long balls.
“Our chances are 50-50 and I think we have an upper hand if you consider that this was a barren draw, which is good enough if we get a scoring draw in Kigali. A scoring draw will be good to take us to the next round. All we need is to work hard and plan well so that we get a good result,” said Numba.
And APR coach Jimmy Mulisa said he was happy that his team registered a draw away from home.
“I was listening to radio before the match and what I heard was that Zanaco was going to beat us by more than three goals but I am happy that we made a different kind of impression. We came here to show that we are champions in Rwanda. We are looking forward to the return leg and we will see what will happen,” said Mulisa.
The second leg will be played on February 18 at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali.
Zanaco: Racha Kola, Ziyo Tembo, George Chilufya, Chongo Chirwa, Taonga Bwembya, Richard Kasonde, Boyd Musonda (Attram Kwame 77’) , Augustine Mulenga, , Fashion Sakala, Saith Sakala, Kennedy Musonda (Ernest Mbewe 45’),
Unused Substitutes: Peter Jacob Banda, Lee Ngoma, Toaster Nsabata, Mangani Banda, Andrew Kwiliko
APR FC: Emery Mvuyekure, Michel Rushesha Ngoga, Emmanuel Imanishimwe, Aimable Nsabimana, Hervé Rugwiro, Yannick Mukunzi, Amran Nshimiyimana, Djihad Bizimana, Janvier Benedata (Maxime Sekama 72’), Patrick Sibomana (Fiston Nkinzingabo 82’), Issa Bigirimana
Unused Substitutes: Kimenyi Yves, Innocent Nshuti, Onesme Twizerimana, Faustin Usengimana, Ngabonziza Albert.
Yellow Cards: Ziyo Tembo (Zanaco); Michel Rushesha Ngonga, Yannick Mukunzi (both APR)