Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Goal shy Zebras drowned by Likoena

When he addressed the media prior to the Zebras’ weekend encounter with Lesotho, assistant coach Oris Radipotsane had a clear and simple message; that the team will score.

This was a script that had been written, rewritten and acted out as the Zebras blitzed past Serowe Select XI and Jwaneng Galaxy, the nation was led to believe. However, against Lesotho on match day, it was a case of same script, same actors but different results. Though the Zebras hogged possession and created countless scoring opportunities, the game ended in anti climax for the Zebras’ faithful as the team surrendered to a 1-all stalemate.

The result meant Peter Butler’s charges were knocked out of the CHAN qualifiers, with Lesotho now proceeding into the second round. Despite the setback, Butler, while taking full responsibility was defiant, he could see progress and would not jump off the ship.

And rightly so! Despite a slow start to the game, which saw Lesotho make the first attempt at goal within the first 10 minutes courtesy of Jane Thabantso, the Zebras could have at least been a goal ahead at the end of the first half. But they were let down by poor finishing in the last third. One such chance came in the 23rd minute when striker Omaatla Kebatho had the first shot on target, but shot tamely into the hands of Lesotho goalkeeper Mohau Kuemane. From then on it was all about Botswana, with the duo of wingers Mpho Kgaswane and Kabelo Seakanyeng being nuisances to the Lesotho full backs.

The latter should have done better in the 34th minute when he cleaned the Lesotho defence, but then shot over the bar. Barely four minutes later, Botswana had another chance when Obonye Moswate whipped in a low ball across the Lesotho goalmouth but the ball evaded both Kebatho and Hendrick Moyo. In referees’ added time, Segolame Boy saw his set piece attempt saved by Kuemane before the goalkeeper denied him again, this time diving to right to save a goal bound header from the Zebras’ attacking midfielder as the two teams went to recess goalless.

From recess, it was the Zebras who started the livelier of the two teams, with Moyo forcing Kuemane into a save just four minutes into the second half. Zebras’ woeful day in front of goal continued on the 52nd minute when Kebatho found himself at the receiving end of goalkeeper Goitseone Phoko’s route one ball but the striker missed. Three minutes later, it was Moswate who shot over the bar after coming at the end of a cross from Zebras’ substitute wing back Katlego Koobake. From then on, Zebras had long periods of possession but could not find a way to the Lesotho goal.

Botswana were then made to rue their missed chances in the 83rd minute as Likoena substitute striker, Thabiso Brown, netted against the run of play to put his team ahead. The lead however lasted just four minutes as Kgaswane leveled with a powerful header. Despite a spirited attempt to win the game, it was a little too late as Likoena held on to proceed with an away goal rule. In his post match remarks, Lesotho coach Seephephe Matete conceded that Botswana were unlucky not to have scored in the first half. He said after realizing Botswana was dangerous on the wings, they decided to go tight on the wings, which he said worked for them. For his part, Butler expressed happiness with the display of his charges though they had failed to convert the chances they created.

“We played good football for quite a while and football is about fine margins. And if you don’t take your chances you don’t win football matches,” the Zebras gaffer said.


Read this week's paper