Saturday, March 6, 2021

Young Zebras bow out of Africa Youth Championships

Botswana’s national Under 20 has crashed out of the Africa Youth Championships following a 2-1 loss to Malawi on Friday at Molepolole Sports Complex. The loss means the Young Zebras bow out with an aggregate of 3-2 following a one all draw in Malawi a fortnight ago.

In essence the young Zebras had no one else to blame but themselves as they wasted numerous golden scoring opportunities’ while their Malawian counterparts used the very few that came their way to win the match.

The loss also means the Young Zebras will be inactive for some time while Malawi progress to the next round where they will play Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Young Zebras came into the match confident, knowing that they were already having the advantageous away goal. At home they just needed a goalless draw or a victory with any margin to progress.

It was however not to be as Malawi shocked them in front of many supporters who came to give them the necessary support. The first half belonged to the Young Zebras as they tormented Malawi from the first whistle but they could not get the all important goal to at least put the match far from Malawians reach.

The Young Zebras attacked Malawi mainly from the wings and put deadly crosses but the striking force consisting of Andrew Makopo and Thero Setsile just headed wide. The thorn in the flesh of Malawi was youthful, Thatayaone Ramatlapeng who was quick and was time and again going for powerful shots but he could also not find the back of the net.

Even in the second half Botswana started like a house on fire and hit the post twice much to frustrations of supporters who thronged the stadium.

Malawi scored an important away goal less than ten minute in the first half through Chawanangwa Kaonga after easily tapping in a cross following young Zebras failure to pick him up in the box. After the goal Zebras tried to equalise but could not break up Malawian defence. Malawi also quickly closed down lethal Young Zebras wings and that rendered them less effective.

Deep into the second half Malawi scored the second goal after Chawanangwa’s shot was deflected by young Zebras defence. The goal put the match far from Young Zebras and they needed to score three goals if they were to advance. After the goal, Malawi took control of the game and did not give Young Zebras any inch space of attacking. Young Zebras scored the consolation goal in the 90th minute from Onkabetse Mankgatai. The goal was brilliant because he easily beat advancing Malawian goalie, Dalitso Makunganya where the least was expected.

The goal however came too little too late as it was not enough to help the team to win. After the match, Malawi coach, Ernest Mtawali praised his boys for the job well done. He told Sunday Standard that they planned well for young Zebras after playing them in the first leg. “We knew that they were going to come to us and attack and our intention was to absorb the pressure and fortunately it worked for us. In the second half we strengthened our weaker areas and also managed to weaken their stronger areas,” he said. For Botswana coach, Innocent Morapedi, it was all disappointment. “We could have long buried them in the first half as we created so many chances compared to them. They created few chances and they utilised them,” he said.

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