Collins Mbesuma scored the only goal of the game just past the hour-mark, but it was a well below par performance from Gordon Igesund’s team – one that will have the nation worried just two months before the continental tournament.
It promised so much in the beginning though, with Bafana Bafana racing out of the blocks and Ricardo Nunes’ third-minute free-kick forcing a good block from Kennedy Mweene.
Five minutes later and Bernard Parker shot inches over from 20 yards out, before Zambia came into the game – Isaac Chansa stinging Itumeleng Khune’s hands after a mazy run which left two defenders in his wake.
Jacob Mulenga came closest on 17 minutes; his free-kick beating Khune, but also the upright by a matter of inches.
Bafana then suffered a blow when Tokelo Rantie was stretchered off on 27 minutes, replaced by Katlego Mashego.
Lerato Chabangu had his shot on the half-hour hit the roof of the net after a short-corner routine, but thereafter the game descended into a scrap which saw three players pick up yellow cards.
Bafana started the second half well, with Mshego having two half-chances early on which both sailed over.
However, it was Zambia who were to find the back of the net on 64 minutes – and a cracker it was! After some patient build-up play, substitute Mbesuma found himself with half-a-yard of space on the edge of the box, and his left-footed thunderbolt left Khune with no chance.
Ten minutes later and Chipolopolo almost made it two when Thabo Nthethe missed a cross and the ball fell to James Chamanga, but the former Moroka Swallows man could not react quick enough from six yards out.
Bafana had two decent chances soon afterwards – first Thuso Phala, making his debut from the bench, had his deflected shot acrobatically tipped over the bar by Mweene, before Kermit Erasmus, off balance, headed over after the Free State Stars goalie missed a corner.
Mbesuma had a very strong penalty appeal waved away late on, while Mweene produced an excellent save to deny Erasmus in the dying seconds, but the African champions were well worth the victory.
Bafana starting XI: Khune - Nthethe, Ngcongca, Khumalo, Nunes – Furman (Buckley 80th), Dikgacoi (Letsholonyane 64th) – Myeni (Phala 52nd), Parker (Erasmus 46th), Chabangu (Modise 73rd) – Rantie (Mashego 27th)
Zambia starting XI: Mweene, Musonda, Himoonde, Nkausu (Mbola 55th), Sunzu, Sinkala, Lungu (Njobvu (77th), J. Mulenga (Mbesuma 46th), Chansa (M Mulenga 60th), C. Katongo (Sakuwaha 60th), Mayuka (Chamanga 69th)