A 79th minute Amity Shamende goal broke the Eswatini’s Total African Nations Championships (CHAN) dreams and hopeful hearts as it pushed the Kostadin Papic coached side dithering almost decisively towards another dead end giving Zambia a 1-0 away advantage at Mavuso Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon.
The result left Eswatini with a mountain to climb in the second leg set for Lusaka next month something that hesitantly can’t be ruled out given how they knocked out Malawi and Angola in their own backyard in the last two qualifying rounds.
But for Aggrey Chiyangi’s local-based Chipolopolo stars they can scent the smell of emulating another double almost similar to the one two years ago though with lesser goals but now highly and persuasively looks possible.
The first half had worn out on a goalless with the home side enjoying a slight of advantage cultivating a pregnancy of hope it could be done but alas the closing had the football gods turning the other way and painfully hound the home fans.
Shamende capitalized on a sloppy defence to slice past the cluster before firing past stranded Sandanezwe Mathabela an effort that greeted the upright before hitting the nets, a goal that literally drained away both hope and energy from the host.
Visibly the dejected fans started pouring out of Mavuso Sports Centre where Eswatini remain winless in seven match a stretch that now has four defeats (Egypt 0-2, Tunisia 0-2, Niger 1-2 and Zambia 0-1) and three draws (Malawi 0-0, Angola 1-1 and Djibouti 0-0).
Cautiously Chiyangi said his lads had only put one foot across the line.
“I would say this was just the first half with the second half set for Zambia but most importantly we just put one foot across the line and we need not to underrate them in the second leg. We knew what they were going to do that is to try and break us down and get the ball behind the defence.
“We had to sit back and absorb them then attack when chances come but defend as soon as we lose the ball and I am glad we did that. Now it will be so difficult for them in Zambia but such is football anything can happen, “ said Chiyangi.
“We did our job very well in the first half but it will now be very difficult in Zambia. We had our one mistake and they scored but who knows we can still turn it around who knows. We are almost there in terms of performance progress,” said Papic.