Zambia fans booed their own under-20 national team and rallied behind Malawi as they forced a goalless draw at a packed Arthur Davies Stadium in Kitwe, Zambia, yesterday evening.
The draw saw the junior Flames consolidate their chances of qualifying for the semi-final of the Cosafa Championship .
Second-placed Malawi, who meet Uganda on Monday, have four points, at par with the leaders, the Cranes, who drew 2-2 with Swaziland in an early kick-off at the same venue yesterday.
A banner on the eastern side, placed in front of a dancing boys’ brigade at the stadium, read ‘Go Zambia Go.’ But it was Malawi who easily started going forward.
First, the hosts’defenders cleared off the line Peter Banda’s corner-kick which had dropped on the goal-mouth, five minutes into the contest.
The contrast between the two teams was clear in Zambia’s long balls compared to Malawi’s pass and move style.
A minute later, Patrick Phiri wriggled his way past Zambia defenders and took a shot, only for his effort to be deflected.
Mike Mkwate picked the loose ball but the goalkeeper smothered the effort of the Nyasa Big Bullets’ boy.
However, Zambia soon came out of the blocks. Franscisco Mwepu glanced his header from a right cross over the bar, then shot wide from the edge of the box after escaping the attention of left-back Precious Sambani in the 22nd minute.
Malawi should have gone in front but Levison Maganizo side-footed his effort over the bar after Sambani had released Phiri, who turned his marker inside out and squared the ball.
Mkwate then forced Zambia keeper Sikanyika to tip his long range effort from the right over the frame in the 27th minute.
The junior Flames survived a big scare as goalkeeper Charles Thom made a full stretch dive to his left to deny
Edward Chilufya with five minutes to the break.
The first-half ended goalless.
Play resumed on a high tempo with Zambia thinking they had scored when Franscisco Mwepu glanced his header into the net after connecting Lameck Banda’s cross but the effort was ruled out for off-side.
Malawi held on to snatch a point and Zambian fans joined them in celebrating.
Only group winners will proceed to the semi-finals alongside overall best runner-ups.
Malawi Coach, Gerald Phiri Senior, made one change from the squad that defeated Swaziland 3-2 on Wednesday by dropping Kondwani Mwaila for winger Ernest Petro in a 4-4-2 formation.
Malawi: Thom, Maganizo, Wali, Idana, Mkwate, Phiri, Sambani, Nyasulu, C. Petro, E. Petro, Banda.
Zambia: Sikanyika, Mumba, Hakwiya, Mwanza, Banda, Chilufya, Kolala, Kasokola, Mwepu, Muma, Sunzu.
Group A standings
Uganda 2 4
Malawi 2 4
Swaziland 2 1
Zambia 2 1