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Zambia undone by first half red card to help Equatorial Guinea win 2-0 in WCQ

Zambia are all but eliminated from contention for the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying in the CAF region following a 2-0 road defeat to Equatorial Guinea in Malabo on Thursday. Chipolopolo drop to six points out of first place in Group B following the result as Equatorial Guinea now stand as the lone team that looks to have a chance at unseating Tunisia as the group leaders, sitting three points behind the Carthage Eagles. Defender Saúl Coco and captain Emilio Nsue provided the goals to make it six points from three games for Nzalang Nacional.

The hosts were the beneficiaries of a red card that inarguably made the difference on the day between two teams who looked evenly matched throughout. Both sides had opportunities in the first twenty minutes, with CD Cádiz full back Carlos Akapo curling a beautiful cross to the far post in the 14th minute that the Equatorial Guinea attackers could not quite apply a finishing touch to. Six minutes later, Zambia forward Fashion Sakala cut inside from the right flank before sending his left footed shot wide from just outside the penalty area.

In the 25th minute, the decisive moment came when talented Zambian attacker Prince Mumba committed a rash studs up challenge on Equatorial Guinea left back Basilio Ndong, which caused the referee to swiftly issue a straight red card to Mumba. Less than ten minutes later Zambia paid the price for Mumba’s mistake. A free kick from the right flank was sent in by Equatoguinean playmaker Pepín and Zambian goalkeeper Cyril Chibwe flapped at the service, failing to make contact with the ball. All CD Las Palmas defender Coco had to do was put a touch on the ball and he made no mistake in putting the hosts in the lead.

Despite the deficit on the scoreboard and in players, Zambia looked more than capable of playing with the hosts and had their opportunities to equalize. Patson Daka was influential and a few minutes after the halftime break had a brilliant chance to even the score. However, the Leicester City striker had to reach back to meet a cross from the left flank and could only touch the ball into the ground from close range, causing it to bounce up to the top of the netting.

The win remained far from certain for most of the second half for Equatorial Guinea, but captain Nsue provided the moment of relief late on for a goal that came with some controversy. The referee awarded a free kick to the hosts in the 87th minute and appeared to be in the process of pulling out his yellow card when Nsue played the free kick quickly down the left flank. Substitute forward Salomón Obama got to the end line and cut back for Luis Nlavo to shoot, drawing a save from Chibwe. The rebound fell right to an onrushing Nsue who made no mistake dispatching his finish from close range to put the match away. Zambian players protested to no avail due to thinking the referee was going to stop the match in order to award the yellow card.

Click on the button link below to watch highlights from the match.

Highlights from FIFA TV

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