When the referee blew the final whistle, two goals and three points separated Botswana’s Ladies senior national football team from their highly rated South African counterparts, belying 90 minutes of almost balanced run of play.
There was no discernible chasm in the performance of the two teams although the Botswana side finally lost to the visiting Banyana Banyana in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final qualifiers over the weekend. Despite going down 0 ÔÇô 2 to their illustrious opponents in a game played at the Lobatse Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon, the Female Zebras did enough to impress even their nemesis’ coach Vera Pauw. Speaking in a post match interview, Pauw paid a flattering tribute to the local girls who gave Banyana a tough time for the entire game. “It was a tough game. Congratulations to Botswana. They get stronger and stronger each time we play them and the day they are going to win against us is getting closer and closer,” the Banyana coach opined.
While Pauw said they had expected to break the Botswana defence more during the encounter, her team struggled to make it past what was a solid Botswana defence. Banyana were made to wait until very late in the 69th minute to get their first goal and even then, it was under fortuitous circumstances. With the local girls slow to close Sanah Modiehi Mollo inside the box, the striker unleashed a fierce shot that cannoned off the upright, before bouncing on the back of the diving Sedilame Bosija and rolling into the net. “The first goal was a lucky one. It was coming but you also need a bit of luck and it bounced off the back of the keeper,” Pauw explained. Mollo’s serendipitous goal seemed to rattle Botswana and Mollo capitalized with another fine goal five minutes later to get her brace. The zebras were caught napping after a hashed up clearance of Mamello Makhabane’s corner found its way back to her. The local girls were yet again slow to close down Mollo when Makhabane crossed it back into the box. The striker needed no second invitation and she pounced, hitting a sweet one past Bosija to ensure a comfortable lead for her team. Commenting on the game, the Female Zebras coach, Gaolethoo Nkutlwisang, while happy with her team’s overall showing, lamented their inexperience in dealing with second balls. “Even though we lost the game, I think we played very well and our match game plan worked well and it was only through their experience that they got the goals they scored,” Nkutlwisang admitted. The Female Zebras’ coach said her charges failure to react quicker to second balls as well as lack of communication gifted Banyana the goals they got. “Our communication in defence was almost nonexistent and as thus we ended up conceding easy goals. Our reaction was also very slow towards the end of the game, thus we failed to react to second balls and we failed to close our opponents and they then scored against us,” Nkutlwisang explained.