NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 4 – Zambia skipper Ranford Kalaba equalized with three minutes left as the Chipolopolo played to a 1-1 draw with Harambee Stars in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final Qualifier at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
Ayub Timbe had given Kenya a 63rd minute lead, but Kenya could not hold on till the final whistle and the result now sees them finish bottom of the Group E on five points while Zambia finished third on seven points.
Guinea Bissau, who already qualified for the 2017 showpiece finished top on 10 points despite losing 1-0 to Congo Brazzaville.
With zero chance of qualifying, both sides were only playing for pride with the biggest stake being the FIFA ranking.
Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi made two changes from the team that played midweek friendly in Kampala, Uganda with Gor Mahia left back Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma being deployed as an offensive winger while Aboud Omar started at left back.
Ouma took Francis Kahata’s place with the Gor Mahia creative midfielder completely missing from the match day squad.
Brian Mandela returned to the heart of defense with David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng going to the bench.
The hosts started the match on a high with Kalaba and Winstone Kalengo, both who ply their trade in Congo being the most dangerous on the Chipolopolo side.
Kalaba showed early intent with a long range shot, but Stars keeper Boniface Oluoch proved equal to the task with a routine take.
The TP Mazembe forward once again knocked on Kenya’s door, taking on Musa Mohammed on the right but his shot from the weaker left foot rolled wide.
Defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino, who plies his trade with Zambian outfit Zesco United and which plays their home matches at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola had a tough time managing the two; Kalaba and Kalengo.
It was the latter, his former team mate at Zesco who bore the full brunt of his no nonsense man marking, twice being felled with the second offense landing Owino a booking.
Stars picked up into the match midway through the half, but the decision making in the final third was all that went wrong.
In the 28th minute, skipper Victor Wanyama released Eric Johannah on the right with the Mathare United man floating in a decent cross but Simon Silwimba managed to clear the ball with Ayub Timbe lurking at the far post.
Johannah tried his luck with a shot from distance in the 35th minute but his shot went over.
Jesse Were also attempted from virtually the same distance after some good work from Wanyama, but the effort was deflected for a corner.
The Zesco United forward who has scored a majority of his 15 season goals at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium but his glancing header from a Johannah cross couldn’t’ trouble his club team mate Jacob Banda.
The hosts were better in the opening exchanges of the second period but were caught completely off when Timbe latched onto a long pass from Wanyama, lifting it over the advancing Banda in the Zambia goal.
Okumbi then introduced Michael Olunga for the tiring legs of Were who had worked hard all evening.
Zambia had a chance to draw level in the 66th minute when Nathan Sinkala’s header at the far post from a Kalaba corner went inches wide.
Ten minutes later, Kalaba had an effort with his freekiock bending beyond the wall but Oluoch pulled up a great save to punch the ball out of danger.
But a slip in concentration in the final minutes of the match handed Zambia the equalizer, Kalaba slotting home with a half volley after Felix Katongo chipped the ball to the far post.