By GRACE CHAILE LESOETSA
ANGUISH gripped Zesco United as they failed to advance to the group stage of the CAF Champions League after a 1-1 draw against five-time champions TP Mazembe in a return leg played yesterday in Ndola.
The Zambian league champions were booted out of the Champions League at their own backyard at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium after they could not overturn the 1-0 deficit to allow Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) side Mazembe secure a group stage berth on a 2-1 aggregate score line.
Zesco now dropped to the Confederation Cup where they will be subjected to play-offs to secure a group stage place.
The Ndola outfit had enough chances to have won the match with ease in first half but a combination of disappointing finishing and a couple of near-misses cost them.
Lazarous Kambole terrorised the Mazembe defence of Djos Issama, Kabaso Chongo, Kelvin Mundeko and Joseph Ochya, scoring Zesco’s goal on 12th minute.
Ben Malango came close to equalising on 23rd minute but his close range shot was parried away by an alert Jacob Banda. In second half, Mazembe returned a better side with veteran Treson Mputu, Christian Koume and Jackson Muleka causing problems for Zesco.
Mputu headed in an equaliser in 49th minute. Malango was substituted for Kalaba in 75th minute, immediately after he failed to convert a penalty.
Zesco coach George “Chicken” Lwandamina said his players put in the best despite the loss.
Lwandamina said the Zambian league was on off-season and therefore his players were not fit enough to match up Mazembe with an active league.
“We knew it would be a tough game , the boys put in their best but unfortunately we conceded, and made everything difficult. We also reduced the impetus to go upfront. Our friends (Mazembe) are still playing their League we are off season,” he said.
His counterpart, Pampile Mihayo said Zesco wasted away several chances and have no one to blame for the failed group stage qualification.