The national Under-23 side surrendered a one-goal lead to go down 2-1 to Malawi in the preliminary round of AFCON Under-23 first leg qualifiers played at the Lobatse Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon.
The home side took the lead just after the hour mark, but conceded two goals in space of four minutes of the last six remaining in the match.
Team coach, Letang ‘Rasta’ Kgwengwenyane rued an inactive first half performance and blamed the team’s defeat on the lack mental strength on the day.
“The stage became too big for the players when we least expected. They had played in the Under-17 and Under-20 (teams), so we thought the stage would not affect them. “We tried to make efforts to address the psychological part of the game using professionals rather than us coaches, but because of financial problems (at Botswana Football Association) we could not manage,” he said.
For most of the first half, the home side looked to have cold feet as they failed to string a couple of passes to open up the visitors’ defence.
As Malawi enjoyed a bigger share of the ball possession, their efforts were nearly rewarded in the sixth minute as Gregory Nachipo’s free kick missed the goal by a whisker. Following poor communication between the goalkeeper and his defence, Thato Kebue nearly hit his own net with a header, but was lucky to see the ball going wide for a corner.
Few moments later, Nachipo outpaced Kebue and went for a shot but Thomas Manyelela parried the over the post. The Dream Team started to find their rhythm in the game. Kago Monyake in good space shot wide, before Tshepo Malgas failed to react quicker from Kitso Mpuisang flicked header as the ball was cleared.
With 10 minutes to the break, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe had to make a goal saving tackle in the box to deny Chikaiko Batson a shooting chance.
The team went into the break level at 0-0 with their Malawian opponents. Just a minute into the second half, the young Zebras were awarded their first free kick of the game. Monyake went for
The Dream Team eventually broke the deadlock on the 61st minute as Ditlhokwe rose highest to nod in substitute Brian Makanku’s free kick with the team’s only shot on target of the game.
Malawi’s Ernest Tambe beat his marker in the 75th minute and went for a shot but Manyelela saved. Six minutes later, Mothusi Cooper showed some good vision with a through ball for Kitso Mpuisang, but the striker who was unmarked in the box shot over the bar. In the 84th minute, Nachipo squared for substitute Francis Mkonda whose initial shot was saved by Manyelela but benefited from the rebound to level the scores. Two minutes later, Nachipo again in good space on the right wing beat the offside trap but was denied by Manyelela. The winger eventually got the winner with two minutes to time. He beat the offside trap once more and put the ball past the advancing goalkeeper as the visitors bagged an important away win. “Playing away is not easy. The boys were a little bit nervous. That is why maybe we conceded that goal. We made substitutions to add power in attack to get the goals. At first we were a little bit cautious, but we settled and went for the goals,” Malawi coach, Meke Misase said after the game.
The return leg will be played tomorrow in Malawi where the local boys need nothing less than a win of more than two goals to advance to the next stage.
Botswana: Manyelela, Goitseone Legopelo, Kebue, Ditlhokwe, Mothusi Johnson, Gape Mohutsiwa, Cooper, Monyake (Makanku), Mpho Kgomo, Malgas, Mpuisang
Malawi: Robson Chinyenda, Chimnemwe Idana, Charles Petro, Trevor Kalema, Hadji Wali, Mark Fodya, Isaac Kaliati, Nachipo, Tambe (Francis Mkonda), Mike Mkwate (Hassan Kajoke), Batison
Cautions: Cooper, Kalema, Fodya
Botswana 1 (Ditlhokwe 61st)
Malawi 2 (Kajoke 84th, Nachipo 88th)