The all Africa Games road for the Young Zebras looks bumpy as they face early elimination from the qualifiers.
This follows the team’s two all draw against their Zimbabwean counterparts in Molepolole on Friday.
Botswana now has to play Zimbabwe in Harare in a fortnight’s time and have to win at all costs.
A loss by Young Zebras or a draw by less than three goals would see them out of the competition.
Botswana created many scoring opportunities and could have scored several of them had they utilized chances that came their way.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, played well and was a major threat when going forward and it was not surprising they got the all important two away goals.
Botswana came into the match well aware the dangers posed by Zimbabwe because, in their previous match, they eliminated Zambia by an aggregate score of 4-3.
Zimbabwe started by beating Zambia away 3-2 before playing to a one all draw at home.
Nevertheless, Botswana started the match on a high tempo as they put the Young Warriors on their back foot. Their torrent of attacks eventually paid off from Gunners winger, Kgololo Leteane.
Leteane made a follow up following a rebound from Phenyo Molefhe’s shot. After the goal, Zimbabweans kept on attacking looking for an equalizer and the players who were a real menace were the trio of Simbarashe Sithole, Archford Gutu and Denver Mukamba.
Zimbabwe were finally rewarded in the 33rd minute when they equalized from Sithole. Sithole went for a low shot and Botswana goalkeeper, Kabelo Dambe, spilled the ball in the path of Sithole who was making a follow up and he easily put it into the back of the net.
Two minutes after Zimabwe’s goal, Botswana extended the lead from a well taken free kick from Centre Chiefs winger, Galabgwe Moyana, leaving Zimbabwe goalie Ariel Sibanda sprawling on the turf.
Both teams went for recess while Botswana was still leading but Zimbabwe looked like a team even more determined in the second half.
They were awarded a controversial penalty two minutes into the second half and their danger man Mukamba did not make any mistake, sending many Zimbabweans who thronged Molepolole sports complex into wild celebrations.
Botswana coach, Daniel Nare, made several changes to the team to add numbers into attack and he pulled out strong left back, Ontse Ntesa, for Kaelo Kgaswane and also replaced Kenamile Mani with Kabo Rasuping.
Mani added stability in the midfield where Ofentse Nato was the lone fighter, doing all the dirty work. Botswana could have made it three in the 65 minutes but Leteane was unfortunate, seeing his effort saved by the goalkeeper and even the post on his follow up.
Zimbabwe might be hard done in the second leg because two of their danger men, Mukamba and Gutu, were given marching orders.
Gutu was sent off for swearing at the referee while Mukamba was dismissed for stamping on goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe’s hands while handling the ball. Fortunately for Zimbabwe, it was towards the end of the match. Zimbabwean coach, Friday Phiri, was happy with the draw saying they got what they wanted.
“What more can one ask for? I got two goals away from home and will be defending them in two weeks time. Generally I was happy with the performance of the team but the most unfortunate thing was the sending off of my two key players and the referee was totally unfair,” he said.
Phiri added that the absence of Gutu and Mukamba might affect his game plan in Zimbabwe.
Botswana coach, Daniel Nare, decried two soft goals his team scored saying they could have done better.
“Just like against Egypt in an Olympic qualifier, we have once again conceded two soft goals and it’s worrying. But in the return leg, we will fight with all we have turn the tables upside down in Harare.”
Nare, once again, reiterated the lack of support he gets for the team. He said teams did not release players for the match despite the encounter being very important.
Uniao Flamengo Santos pulled all their players out of the Young Zebras camp, citing yesterday’s Coca Cola encounter against Motlakase as more important.
Surprisingly for Santos, they released their assistant coach, Keitumetse ‘Pio’ Paul, to the team where he assists Nare.
Nare added that he will continue to work with what he has at his disposal but appealed to teams to give the Under 23s the support they deserve.