After a 1-0 win over visitors Burundi on Sunday, the Zebras will now host West African side Guinea-Bissau in the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers next month. The Zebras huffed and puffed before registering a slim 1-0 win over visiting Burundi in their second leg encounter, which was played at Lobatse Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The two sides played to a goalless draw in the first leg match in Bujumbura a fortnight ago.
On Sunday, the Zebras were under pressure to deliver in front of almost 5,000 home fans. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, the only goal of the match came in the 57th minute when captain Joel Mogorosi ran onto a long ball from goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe and shrugged off a Burundian defender before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Arthur Mac Arakaza. The goal sent the local supporters into delirium. Despite conceding early in the second half, the visitors were not rattled as they continued to push forward in search of an equalizer to spoil the party for the hosts. But it was never to be as the defense, marshaled by veteran Boitumelo Mafoko and Leutwetse Tshireletso, remained rock-solid.
Mogorosi, who worked tirelessly the entire afternoon, was unlucky not to complete his brace in the 60th minute when the Burundian goalkeeper parried his shot to concede a corner. Playing as a lone striker, Mogorosi often found himself surrounded by a cluster of opposition defenders with little support from his teammates. In the end it was a well deserved victory for the Zebras who will go on to meet Guinea-Bissau in the second round.
However, the Zebras struggled to put a few passes together as Sekhana Koko and Lemponye Tshireletso failed to bring in the crosses from the wings. Star midfielder Mogakolodi Ngele also failed to click, probably because he had just recovered from a knock. It did not come as a surprise when Ngele was replaced by Jackie Mothatego at the beginning of the second half. The Gaborone United midfielder also failed to avail options for the Zebras going forward. Ofentse Nato, who was rock solid in the middle of the park, admitted in a post match interview that the Zebras performance was not impressive, but welcomed the win nonetheless.
“It was an ugly game from our side but we can’t complain much because we got the much needed win and managed to proceed to the next round. Sometimes you don’t have to play a beautiful game to get results. We must consider that we’re in a process of rebuilding and it is not going to be easy to play to the expectations of many people,” he said.
Nato added that after qualifying for the next stage, coach James Butler will now have a chance to sit back and analyze their game against the East Africans to see where he can make improvements.
“We should have scored at least three goals but that was not to be. We need to work on converting our chances because that is where I feel we’re still lacking. Credit must go to Burundi who gave us a torrid time. They were totally different from the side we faced a fortnight ago,” said Nato.
It was Burundian captain Saidi Ntibazonkiza who was a marvel to watch in the midfield. The Poland based midfielder’s intelligence won him the hearts of many who travelled to Lobatse. Meanwhile, the Zebras will host West African side Guinea-Bissau in the second round billed for next month. The first leg match will be hosted by the Zebras at the national stadium in Gaborone on July 19 before travelling to Guinea-Bissau for the return leg on August 3. Guinea-Bissau qualified for the next round after beating Central African Republic 3-1 on aggregate on Sunday. The first leg ended goalless. The winner of Botswana/Guinea-Bissau match will then go into Group G of the qualifiers which consists of Egypt, Tunisia and Senegal.