An Emmanuel Chabula volley that will likely be a candidate for goal of the tournament sealed a 2-0 African Nations Championship (CHAN) win by Zambia over Tanzania in Limbe Tuesday.
Chabula connected perfectly with a Collins Sikombe cross on 81 minutes to rifle the ball past goalkeeper Aisha Manula into the roof of the net in southwestern Cameroon.
Sikombe had put Zambia ahead on 64 minutes by calmly converting a penalty awarded when Tanzania captain Shomari Kapombe handled at the Stade Omnisport.
In the second match of a Group D double-header, Yakhouba Barry bagged a brace as Guinea outplayed Namibia 3-0 to top the table on goal difference.
Zambia, whose best placing in three previous CHAN appearances was third at the maiden edition in the Ivory Coast 12 years ago, looked the likelier winners for much of the second half.
However, Tanzania almost equalised when a Ditram Nchimbi lob just missed an unguarded goal two minutes before Chabula doubled the lead.
Zambia entered a tournament restricted to home-based footballers as one of the best prepared contenders having played numerous warm-up matches under Serb coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic.
The extensive build-up of the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) included four friendly internationals after arriving in Cameroon that delivered one victory, two draws and a loss.
“No team lifts the trophy after securing maximum points from their first tournament game. Winning the opening match is a good step, but we were far from our best,” admitted Sredojevic.
Burundi-born Tanzania coach Etienne Ndayiragije said: “Zambia capitalised on their chances. We need to keep working hard because we have two more group games and can reach the quarter-finals.”
Meanwhile, Barry took advantage of poor Namibian defending to net after seven and 86 minutes with Morlaye Sylla scoring the other Guinean goal on the stroke of half-time.
A weak back pass from Immanuel Heita allowed Barry to dart forward and put his team ahead by firing past goalkeeper Edward Maova, who was to blame for the third goal as he allowed a soft shot to slip past him.
The 16-team Nations Championship kicked off last Saturday after being postponed twice last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When original hosts Ethiopia fell behind with preparations, the tournament was moved to Cameroon, where the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) will be staged next January and February.