By KALUMIANA KALUMIANA At Nkana Stadium –
Nkana 5 Swallows 2 (5-4 aggregate)
NKANA yesterday staged a dramatic comeback thanks to a Simon Bwalya hat-trick to stun Mbabane Swallows and qualify to the first round of the 2014 CAF Champions League.
The Zambian champions advanced 5-4 on aggregate overturning a 2-0 first leg loss suffered at Somhlolo Stadium in Manzini, Swaziland.
Nkana will face Uganda champions Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) in the first round whom they host in the first leg on March 1 at Nkana Stadium after the East Africans ejected El Merriekh of Sudan yesterday in Kampala.
The seven goal thriller in Kitwe on Saturday saw a shocking four goals scored in the opening 30 minutes of the first half.
However, it was Swallows who drew first blood through their Zimbabwe born striker Kudazanyai Matanda who scored his second against Nkana in as many games.
Matanda pounced on another poor clearance by Christopher Munthali in the sixth minute to send the home fans into mute mode.
Swallows captain Tony Tsabedze almost added the second goal in the 13th minute after dancing his way past Billy Mwanza and Munthali but goalkeeper Rabson Muchelenganga parried his shot on the near post.
Five minutes later Nkana equalised through man of the match Ronald ‘Sate Sate’ Kampamba who slotted in the ball from close range to score his first of two on the day.
Kampamba completed his brace in the 24th minute from the penalty spot after defender Sifiso Mabila brought down Claude Bwalya in the box.
He then turned provider in the 29th minute floating a sweet cross for Simon Bwalya to head in his first of three goals on the day to see Nkana take a 3-1 lead into the break.
Nkana extended their lead in the 63rd minute as the momentum swung strongly in the favour in their race to redeem themselves after last Sunday’s shock away loss.
Swallows had a good chance to pull one back in the 68th minute through Wander Nhleko but his shot was saved by Muchelenganga.
Three minutes later, Nhleko made no mistake to give Swallows back the advantage with a tame long range shot that beat Muchelenganga with ease.
However, it was game set and match for Nkana in the 85th minute when Kampamba rolled the ball into Bwalya’s path to put the result beyond doubt to see the Kitwe giants seal a dramatic result.
And in Kampala, KCCA lost 1-2 at home against El Merriekh but qualified 3-2 on aggregate to seal their rendezvous with Nkana.
Meanwhile, Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya commended Nkana for putting up a spirited fight coming from a goal down to win emphatically.
Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili was equally overjoyed with Nkana victory, saying he had spoken to the players before the match where he encouraged them not to lose hope despite trailing 2-0 from the first leg.