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AFCON 2023: Zambian defense holds firm to escape with point against DR Congo

A fearsome DR Congo attack kept Zambia under pressure for long stretches on Wednesday in San Pédro but Chipolopolo escaped with a point following a 1-1 draw in Group F at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. Kings Kangwa took advantage of a goalkeeping error to put Zambia ahead in the first half before the Leopards responded through Yoane Wissa within five minutes. DR Congo face group favorites Morocco next on Sunday while Zambia go for the full three points against Tanzania on the same day.

Both teams are carried by strong attacking units and that set the stage for an energetic start to the match which featured less emphasis on possession and more focus on direct play. The Congolese attacking trio of Gaël Kakuta, Yoane Wissa and Cédric Bakambu caused trouble for a suspect Zambian defense throughout the match but it was Chipolopolo who managed to find the opening goal courtesy of a defensive error.

In the 23rd minute a lofted pass down the right wing saw DR Congo goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi come far off his line and tackle the ball out of play. Mpasi went to ground after a collision with Zambia striker Patson Daka and Daka smartly threw the ball in to Kangwa who looped his shot just beyond retreating Leopards defender Henoc Inonga and into the goal.

The response was swift from the Congolese four minutes later after their own attack down the right wing. Bakambu took down a pass and had plenty of room to cross low for Wissa who was left with a simple tap-in to level the match. The Leopards nearly snatched the lead three minutes later but Chipolopolo keeper Lawrence Mulenga did well to come off his line and deny Bakambu before captain Stoppila Sunzu made a timely intervention to clear Yoane Wissa’s follow up attempt off the line.

DR Congo continued to be the more threatening team after halftime but the Zambian defense improved as the match went on. An excellent sliding block on a 60th minute cross from Chipolopolo defender Tandi Mwape was initially ruled a hand ball but Zambia escaped after VAR overturned the initial decision. A last second intervention from central defender Frankie Musonda foiled a Bakambu cross in the 76th minute and the Zambian defense continued to bend but not break in the final half hour, securing a point that the 2012 champions will be satisfied with considering the pressure they had to absorb.

Highlights from the Group F clash are below.

Match Highlights

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