Libya keep hopes alive
Libya kept alive hopes of an African Nations Cup finals fairytale by holding Zambia to a 2-2 draw in their Group A match on Wednesday.
Ahmed Saad scored twice for the north Africans, who overcame the obstacle of last year's civil war to surprisingly qualify for the tournament, being co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
It was the first point for Libya, who must now beat Senegal in their final match at the weekend to have any chance of progressing to the last eight. Libya lost to Equatorial Guinea in last Saturday's opening game.
"We'll see what chance we have but that we will try to win at all costs is sure," said Libya's only Europe-based player, Djamal Abdallah of Portuguese club Braga.
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The decision to go ahead with Wednesday's match on a virtually unplayable pitch, after a heavy downpour delayed kick-off by more than an hour, was heavily criticised by both teams.
"The players could have been badly injured. We should not have started," Abdallah told Reuters.
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It was a sentiment shared by Zambia captain Chris Katongo.
"The conditions were really bad and very difficult to play in. We had to resort to ping-pong football and that is not our style," he said in a reference to both teams having to keep the ball in the air to get forward momentum.
PUDDLES OF WATER
Workers cleared puddles of water before kick off and a machine to soak up the liquid was brought on during the halftime break, but even then the two sides battled through a punishing a mud bath.
Saad scored first for Libya after just four minutes, slotting in from the left after breaking clear of the defence.
But Zambia immediately hit back with Emmanuel Mayuka getting onto the end of a cross from Rainsford Kalaba to equalise in the 29th minute. It was his second goal of the tournament.
Saad took advantage of a defensive slip to restore Libya's lead just after the break but again Libya's lead did not last long with Katongo finishing from close range after a bicycle kick pass from Mayuka.
"It was good to score again and it came at the right time," Katongo said.
The heavy pitch saw the teams tire near the end but Zambia might have snatched victory in stoppage time as the Libyans cleared desperately under severe pressure.
Senegal were meeting Equatorial Guinea in the second game in Bata on Wednesday, with its kick-off delayed by 75 minutes.