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AFCON U-17: South Africa triumphs over Zambia in thrilling shootout

Questionable defense and goals always provide plenty of entertainment and that was the case in the late match on Wednesday at the 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations in Algeria. Michael Dokunmu’s 76th minute strike was the match winner in South Africa’s 3-2 victory over COSAFA rivals Zambia, setting up an anticipated duel with Nigeria for second place in Group B on Saturday. Star player Emmanuel Mwanza scored both goals for Zambia who still have a chance to advance to the quarterfinals but will likely need a victory against group leaders Morocco in their final Group B match.

It looked like South Africa’s Amajimbos would coast to victory based on the opening half hour. Man of the Match Vicky Mkhawana got the scoring started in the 12th minute when the Zambian defense dealt poorly with an aerial ball, allowing the Kaizer Chiefs player to collect and fire in a dipping volley from twenty-five yards out past Zambia goalkeeper Shadrick Kalyati. Kalyati was left to pick the ball out of his net once again soon after the half hour mark when Mkhawana received a chipped pass into the box from Siyabonga Mabena and finished under Kalyati to double South Africa’s lead.

Zambia, who defeated South Africa twice in the COSAFA region of qualifying, did not go away quietly and it was Mwanza who pulled his team back into the match. An early cross into the South African penalty area saw the Kafue Celtic player sneak in to win the ball off a defender before finishing into the roof of the net past Amajimbos keeper Gennaro Johnson. Zambia stayed on the front foot after the halftime break and equalized in the 48th minute when Marcel Zimba forced a turnover and Mwanza pounced on the loose ball to curl a beautiful effort past Johnson.

The teams continued battling but South Africa seized the initiative in the final half hour in a difficult day for the Zambian defense. In the 76th minute a cross from the right wing Xhosa Manyama was allowed to drop in the Zambian penalty area where Dokunmu was able to collect, turn and fire low past Kalyati to give his side their first points at the competition.

Highlights from the match are below.

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