The Zambia U-20 men’s national football team earned a 2-1 win over South Africa’s Amajita in a friendly match played at Nkoloma Stadium on Sunday, a result that mirrored what happened in the U-20 Cosafa Cup final two months ago.
Enock Mwepu opened the scoring for the hosts with a powerful header on 27 minutes and an own goal by defender Aghmat Ceres doubled the advantage before second half substitute Liam Jordan pulled a goal back from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute.
Zambia were forced to make an early substitution when they had to withdraw Moses Nyondo who was replaced by Benson Chali in the third minute due to injury.
Despite the setback, the hosts dominated the early exchanges and could have broken the deadlock in the 6th minute had Itumeleng Shabalala not been alert to tip Mwepu’s effort over and behind for a corner.
Zambia asked a lot of questions of the South African defence, camping in their opponents’ defensive half for long periods, which saw them win six corners inside the opening 20 minutes.
The pressure paid off in the 27th minute when Chrispine Sakulanda’s delivery from a corner kick was met by Mwepu who rose highest to head home at the far post.
The visitors’ first chance of the match came in the 38th minute with Kodisang testing Samson Banda with a tame effort following a good solo run.
After the break, the first chance fell to the visitors through Khanyisa Mayo whose free kick flew over and wide of Banda’s goal.
However, it was the hosts who doubled their advantage in the 66th minute when Aghmat Ceres put the ball into his own net, the ball deflecting off his knee as he tracked Edward Chilufya inside the box.
Six minutes after scoring into his own net, Ceres won the penalty which saw Jordan score the consolation goal with 18 minutes remaining on the clock.
Zambia U-20 mens’ coach said winning the friendly match was an indication that his boys were taking the preparations seriously because they understood how important it was for them as hosts to perform well in the 2017 Afcon.
“It was not an easy game but we are a working team and we have told the boys the seriousness of the tournament. A lot has gone into preparations hence the expectations from stakeholders, especially those of our fans are high. We have to work and sweat if we are going to get far in the tournament. We want to start well and for us it is important that we win the first match. Our aim is to tackle the first game and then we can map out the way forward,” Chambeshi said.
And Amajita coach Thabo Senong said he was not concerned about the loss.
“I believe that we are losing games at the right time because it moves us away from the comfort zone and our team will always remain in the performance zone. We always have to improve ourselves and I believe that we will be ready when the tournament starts. It is important that Zambia also remains in the performance zone because when you are always in the comfort zone you can end up losing when it matters,” said Senong.
Zambia play the tournament’s opening match with Guinea on February 26 at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka while South Africa will play their first match in Group B against Cameroon on the following day at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.