Zambia claimed the COSAFA Cup title with a 1-0 win over Botswana in the final played at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A late goal from Tapson Kaseba secured the trophy for Chipolopolo, who claimed their first COSAFA Cup since 2013 and a fifth overall –- just one short of the record six held by rivals Zimbabwe in the regional competition.
For the Zebras, the defeat is their second in a final (the first was in 2016) and they continue to search for their first Southern African title.
Botswana started the stronger of the two teams and impressive midfielder Mothusi Cooper stung the palms of Zambian goalkeeper Sebastian Mwange as early as the fourth minute of the match.
Zambia had an early chance of their own in the 12th minute when Lazarous Kambole ran onto a ball over the top of the defence, but with goalkeeper Ezekiel Morake stranded off his line, the forward was unable to find the target with his lobbed effort.
The Zebras dominated the remainder of the first half, forcing Chipolopolo back with their slick passing and intelligent use of the flanks. Their best chance saw striker Thero Setsile denied at point-blank range by Mwange from a corner kick, but the interval arrived with the score still locked at 0-0.
The first chance of the second half went the way of Zambia in the 51st minute, with a flick-on from a corner kick giving Clement Mulashi a chance to head on goal from close range, but he failed to hit the target.
Botswana responded on 64 minutes with a shot on goal direct from a free kick, but Segolame Boy’s effort was turned away by Mwange to keep the score line blank.
However, almost out of nowhere, Zambia stunned their opponents with a goal in the 78th minute: a diagonal ball found Benson Sakala, whose header into space was turned home by Tapson Kaseba to put Chipolopolo 1-0 up.
A few minutes later Kaseba almost doubled his tally, latching onto a loose ball in the Botswana box before getting away an acrobatic volley, but his shot ricocheted off the top of the crossbar.
Botswana looked for an equaliser in what remained of the game, but they were unable to create any further scoring opportunities.