The two final group first ties of the African Nations Championships played at the Gisenyi’s Umuganda stadium on Tuesday produced five goals with Isaac Chansa’s 58th minute strike earning his country the maximum points against Zimbabwe, while Uganda and Mali shared the spoils in the last match.
In a bad-tempered game marked with bookings, Uganda opened the scoring in the 11th minute through defender Joseph Ochaya who headed home a well taken free kick from skipper Farouk Miya.
Mali drew level 13 minutes later through Sedou Keita’s thunderous left foot strike. Uganda were awarded a penalty in the 40th minute when Erisa Sekisambu was brought down in the box and Miya converted the resultant kick to give the Cranes a 2-1 lead before the break.
The lead barely lasted 15 minutes after the restart as Malian’s fought back was rewarded in the 60th minute when Mamadou Collibaly played a sublime cross into the Uganda box with Hamidou Sinayoko tapping in for the second goal and the much needed equalizer restoring parity at 2-2.
Both coaches made some changes in their bid to edge out their opponent. Ugandans who struggled to find their feet after the two forced substitutions, however managed to hold tie the game 2-2.
Zambia picked the maximum points and ascended the top spot when they beat Zimbabwe in the first match of the day. Veteran midfielder Isaac Chansa, volleyed home the winner in the 58th minute.
Zambia went into attack from the start and came close to taking an early lead from another veteran Chris Katongo, who after winning the battle upfront just headed wide in the second minute.
The inclusion of Chansa and Katongo, one of the heroes of Zambia’s 2012 African Cup of Nations title success in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, in the squad for the tournament had been heavily criticised by the Zambia media.
But Lwandamina defended the two players saying it was wise to balance the team. “You cannot have a team of just youngsters, you need experience because of the interaction of players on and off the pitch,” Lwandamina said.
Meanwhile, the second round matches continue Wednesday (today) in Kigali when hosts Rwanda ties Gabon while Ivory Coast tries to rescue its CHAN campaign against its North Africa foe, Morocco.
Rwanda head the group with three points while Gabon and Morocco have one point each. Ivory Coast remain pointless and desperately needs maximum points to stand chances of making the quarter finals. A win against Gabon today will see the host pick the quarter finals first ticket while a draw may not be as bad depending on the outcome of Morocco-Cote d’Ivoire tie.
Both matches will take place at the Amahoro Stadium with Rwanda taking on Gabon at 3pm before Morocco faces Ivory Coast.
By Olisemeka Obeche