A FIERCE Collins Mbesuma strike last night propelled African champions, Zambia to a well-deserved victory over 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) hosts, South Africa to win the 18th edition of the Nelson Mandela Challenge at the giant Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.
It was Mbesuma's first goal for the Chipolopolo under Frenchman Herve Renard.
A 64th minute left-footed cracking shot, courtesy of a delicious pass from exciting midfielder, Mukuka Mulenga, who was making his Chipolopolo debut, ripped into the top right corner of the net, giving Bafana Bafana goalkeeper, Itumeleng Khune no chance.
That crucial goal won the burly striker praises from Renard who said: "Collins made a good comeback with a goal. I'm happy for him."
Even Khune was gracious in defeat: "I know Mbesuma from his time at Kaizer Chiefs. He is a good striker. I blame myself for not closing my right."
Bafana Bafana coach, Gordon Igesund said: 'Zambia deserved the victory, it was their game. We don't have a team yet."
The victory, which was the first for the 2013 AFCON hosts since 2010, was Zambia's sweet revenge over South Africa, who had beaten the Chipolopolo 2-1 in the inaugural Mandela Challenge in 1994.
Zambia, who were rewarded R1 million (about K600 million) and a Shield, have now beaten South Africa five times in 15 meetings with Bafana being victors on four occasions while six games were drawn.
Despite South Africa making a a bright start to this match, Zambia dominated with in almost all departments with man-of-the-match Stoppila Sunzu being outstanding at the back.
Bafana Bafana were gifted three free-kicks in the first six minuntes of this match by Swwaziland referee, Simanga Nhleko but all the chances were adequately dealt with.
Renard, who lined up 10 of his starting 2012 AFCON winning squad, was forced to make a late change to the first 11 after midfielder Felix Katongo suddenly suffered a stomach bug and replaced him with Chisamba Lungu.
Jacob Mulenga also made his return to the Chipolopolo for the first time for almost a year, replacing injured Rainford Kalaba from the AFCON winning team.
In the eighth minute, Bernard Parker almost grabbed the lead for Bafana but his volley flew just above Kennedy Mweene's goal while Isaac Chansa selfishly opted tp go for glory two minutes when he had options to either pass to skipper Christopher Katongo or Emmanuel Mayuka on either of his sides.
Khune managed to stop Chansa's stinging shot.
On 16 minutes, Mulenga saw his well-executed free-kick flash just wide after Mayuka was fouled outside the box.
Mulenga had his header on 33 minutes from a Davies Nkausu floated ball scooped by Khune as the Chipolopolo stamped their authority on the match.
At restart, Renard rested Mulenga for Mbesuma and then introduced Emmanuel Mbola for Nkausu on 54 minutes.
The double introduction of Jonas Sakuwaha and Mukuka Mulenga who came on for Katongo and Chansa, respectively on 60 minutes, changed the complexion of the match as Zambia began finding more inroads in the South African territory.
It was therefore befitting for the Chipolopolo to take the lead when Mbesuma's stinging shot outside the box six minutes later gave Zambia the edge.
South Africa only sat up after Mbesuma's goal and Thuso Phala's dipping shot was tipped over the bar by an agile Mweene.
With time ticking away, a pensive Igesund constantly checked his watch as his charges struggled to break the resolute Chipolopolo backline.
For the discipline at the back, Sunzu deservedly picked up the man-of-the-match award which came with a R10,000 (about K6 million) prize.
Both teams were using the Mandela Challenge to kick-start their preparations for next year's AFCON finals which kick-off on January 19 at Soccer City.
- Itumeleng Khune, Anele Ngcongca, Bongani Khumalo, Thabo Nthethe, Ricardo Nunes, Kagiso Dikgacoi (Letsholonyane 65'), Dean Furman (Delron Buckley 80'), Lerato Chabangu (Teko Modise 73'), Sifiso Myeni (Thuso Phala 52'), Tokelo Rantie (Katlego Mashego 28'), Bernard Parker (Kermit Erasmus 46')
- Kennedy Mweene, Davies Nkausu (Emmanuel Mbola 55'), Stoppila Sunzu, Hichani Himoonde, Joseph Musonda, Chisamba Lungu (William Njobvu 77'), Nathan Sinkala, Isaac Chansa (Mukuka Mulenga 61'), Jacob Mulenga (Collins Mbesuma 46'), Emmanuel Mayuka (James Chamanga 69'), Christopher Katongo (Jonas Sakuwaha 60')
South Africa 0 Zambia 1 -