Zambia claimed a handsome 7-0 victory over South Africa in their 2019 COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship Group A clash on Monday, but hosts Malawi came unstuck when they lost 2-1 to Eswatini in Blantyre.
The results mean the qualifiers from the pool have not yet been decided with a final round of matches remaining on Wednesday, but Zambia look odds on to advance after another powerful display.
They made light work of their South African opponents for another commanding display that followed their 6-0 win over Eswatini in the first match.
It underlines their status as perhaps the favourite for this year’s trophy as they seek to retain the title they last lifted in 2017.
They took the lead on 10 minutes with a simple goal as Joseph Banda curled a corner into the box and Miguel Chaiwa headed home.
It was 2-0 shortly afterwards with a well-worked goal as Rickson Ng’ambi found the impressive Banda out wide and he chipped the ball over South African goalkeeper Werner Oosthuizen.
Zambia grabbed another just before the break again it came from a corner, this time whipped in by Peter Chikola, as Ng’ambi headed home almost unchallenged.
The Young Chipolopolo were in complete control and added two more goals early in the second period.
Ng’ambi provided the pass for Moses Mulenga to score, and then netted with an audacious 45-yard strike after spotting Oosthuizen off his line.
The stuffing had been knocked out of the South Africans and substitute Charles Mumba added a sixth goal, before Peter Chikola grabbed the seventh with 18 minutes remaining on the clock.
Malawi would have expected to march on to victory when they took the lead in the second half against Eswatini as Noel Sakala curled in a fine strike just past the hour-mark.
But Eswatini came roaring back and equalised thanks to a shot from the edge of the box by Colani Dvuba.
And the visitors took a surprise lead two minutes later as Bongani Mhlanga completed a fine run with a cross for Khayalethu Zitha to score the winner.
Zambia have six points at the top of Group A, while Eswatini and Malawi have three each and South Africa have zero.
Group B will conclude on Tuesday when the final matches are played concurrently and it is all to play for with semifinal places up for grabs.
Victory for Mozambique against already-eliminated Lesotho at the Kamuzu Stadium (kick-off 14h00 local time; 12h00 GMT) will ensure their passage though a draw, or even defeat, may be enough depending on what happens in the second fixture.
That will be played between Comoros and Angola at the Mpira Stadium at the same time, with a winner-takes-all tag attached to the fixture.
Comoros and Mozambique have four points each after two rounds, with Angola a point back on three. But they will need a win to advance as a point will not be enough, potentially leaving them level with Mozambique, but then out on the head-to-head rule.
Head-to-head is used by COSAFA in the first instance to separate two or more teams that finish level on points, after which goal-difference becomes the next decider.
South Africa 0 Zambia 7 (Chaiwa 10’, Banda 20’, Ng’ambi 38’, 52’, Mulenga 50’, Mumba 68’, Chikola 72’)
Eswatini 2 (Dvuba 68’, Zitha 73’) Malawi 1 (Sakala 61’)
14h00: Mozambique vs Lesotho – Kamuzu Stadium
14h00: Comoros vs Angola – Mpira Stadium
(Credit: Cosafa Website)