Zesco United made a dignified exit from the Total CAF Confederation Cup on Sunday night when they rallied to beat Asante Kotoko following a 2-1 home win at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
Jesse Were and Kondwani Mtonga cancelled out Stephen Nyarko’s opener in first fifteen minutes of the second half.
The result was not enough for Kotoko to finish in the top two and qualify to the quarterfinals, something that coach Charles Akonnor rued.
“It is a match that we wanted so badly. Zesco had nothing to lose. They didn’t have pressure but to be honest we have lost bitterly but I am proud of the boys. It is the end of the journey but I hope we can learn from this and hope we can come back,”Akonnor said.
The result was massive relief for Zesco coach George Lwandamina who came into the match on the back of a seven competitive match winless run.
“They wanted it more than we did but there was also an element pride at stake for us. We needed to protect our integrity that is how important it (the win) was,” Lwandamina said.
The first half ended scoreless but it was Kotoko who had the best chances in that period fashioned by the creative Emmanuel Gymafi.
Kotoko striker Teguy Zabo had the first shot in the 8th minute that Zesco goalkeeper Jacob Banda kept out on the near post with his feet.
Zabo again put the pressure on Zesco’s goal in the 12th minute after stealing the ball away from Zesco defender David Owino but fired high and over.
Zesco’s best opportunity in the half came in the 19th minute Were’s shot was saved by Felix Annan.
But it took just a minute into the second half for the deadlock to be broken when Nyarko turned in Gymafi’s pass a minute after coming on for Habib Mohammed.
However, Zesco fought back in the 53rd minute when an unmarked Were turned in Lazarus Kambole’s fine layoff.
The final goal came three minutes later when Mtonga punished Annan for parrying Enock Sabumukama’s free-kick into his path to seal Zesco’s victory.
Zesco exit the race bottom on 7 points, tied with third-placed Kotoko while Nkana and Al Hilal have advanced to next month ’s quarterfinals on 9 and 11 points in second and first place respectively.