Honours even for Senegal, Zambia
Senegal and Zambia ground out a goalless CAF African Nations Championship draw in an Abidjan showdown that failed to match expectations. The result left the teams sharing the leadership of Group A with four points each from two matches and Zambia in front because of a superior goal difference after a shock three-goal mauling of the host Ivorians.
Senegal were less spectacular winners on the opening day, edging Tanzania in a match that delivered a solitary goal, but coach Joseph Koto did his homework well on the Zambians. Forced into a physical battle, Zambia came off second best for most of a struggle fought mainly in midfield with few scoring chances and failed to capitalise on the late dismissal of Senegalese defender Babacar Ndiour.
Senegal also cut the supply line to the wings, leaving Zambia to play an alien game and striker Given Singuluma, three-goal hero of the opening-day triumph, made little impression before being substituted. Zambia left captain Elijah Tana, who missed the first game of the maiden tournament for home-based African footballers, on the bench until the second half and he made several timely interceptions when introduced.
"I simply do not know what went wrong with my players. I am disappointed with their output," confessed France-born Zambia coach Herve Renard to reporters. "We lost everything, technically, mentally and physically, but the most important thing is that we grabbed a point and stayed top. We shall give our all in the final match against Tanzania."
Koto was worried as Senegal complete their mini-league fixtures on Saturday against the host nation before a probable sell-out 35,000 crowd at the renovated Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium. "Senegal lost two valuable points and that is not good for our cause. We were the best team and created many chances. Our final game will now prove decisive and I hope we make the most of it."
Group A top seeds Côte d'Ivoire play Tanzania later in the second part of a double-header needing maximum points to get their campaign back on track.