by Babarinsa Olusola
Zambia’s keeper, Kennedy Mweene spared the defending champions an early exit as his late penalty gave them a draw against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in an AFCON Group C match concluded a few minutes ago.
All the teams in the group came into today after matchday 3 games were both drawn, but it appeared that Zambia’s progress would not happen as the Super Eagles led from the 57th minute through Emmanuel Emenike.
However, a highly contentious penalty, which surprised even Zambia, saw Mweene wrong foot his opposite number with a cheeky goal. That result means that both Nigeria and Zambia have their destinies in their hands on Tuesday as they play Ethiopia and Burkina Faso respectively.
Zambia had slightly the better of the opening stages with Rainford Kalaba firing a vicious half-volley narrowly high and wide. The midfielder then curled in a cross that was gathered by Vincent Enyeama after it eluded Kalaba’s team-mates.
However, Nigeria had the chance to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty in the 25th minute. Davis Nkausa’s ill-judged challenge on Ahmed Musa saw the striker tumble to the ground. John Obi Mikel took responsibility for the spot-kick but the midfielder’s shot went wide.
A relieved Zambia came forward, Chisamba Lungu forcing Enyeama to parry the ball for a corner from his dipping free-kick. Kalaba was heavily involved, his cross headed wide by Stophira Sunzu before they failed to take advantage of outnumbering the Nigeria defence in first half injury-time, Isaac Chansa weakly finding the keeper when he had team-mates free in front of goal.
Shortly after the restart Nigeria broke, but Musa’s shot across the keeper eluded both the net and the onrushing Emmanuel Emenike. However, the latter opened the scoring with his second goal of the the tournament 12 minutes into the second half. Mikel pounced on defensive hesitancy to find Emenike in the penalty area, he collected the ball, moved inside his marker and drilled a low shot into the corner.
Kalaba then bore down on goal but his lobbed shot was blocked by the goalkeeper with 20 minutes remaining before he turned provider, rolling the ball back to Collins Mbesuma whose finish was weak and easily gathered by Enyeama despite being unmarked in the centre of the area.
However, they were given a lifeline when the referee awarded a penalty in the 85th minute when Nosa Igiebor was adjudged to have fouled Emmanuel Mayuka. Mweene strolled forward, the epitome of calm despite the high-pressure situation, hands on hips, before casually dinking the ball into the top corner.