On a freezing afternoon in the city of Francistown, the Zebras gave the fans a warm, early Christmas present with a display befitting the beauty of the new Francistown Stadium. A change of environment was the needed tonic and the Zebras responded with a virtuoso performance to dismiss Burkina Faso 1-0 on Saturday
FRANCISTOWN: It was billed as a David versus Goliath encounter, where a Stallion and Zebra traded fierce kicks. Naturally, the Stallion started as a favourite due to its known power compared to the Zebra.
But as thousands trooped out of the new Francistown Stadium, new heroes had been born. Coach Peter Butler had declared his charges were fearless as they headed to Francistown on Monday.
The Zebras responded with a dizzying display of football, which made the 2013 AFCON finalist appear like lightweights.
The unheralded Lebogang Ditsele was immense in midfield.
He intercepted the West Africans’ play on countless occasions, moved forward with menace and protected the back four with the assured ease of a veteran. Some had questioned Peter Butler’s insistence with the lanky 20year-old, but Saturday’s age defying display exonerated the Briton. Ditsele put the icing on the cake of a commanding display when he was involved in the build-up to the match winner. He burst forward in the 49th minute, subtracted an opponent before threading through a neat pass which veteran forward, Joel Mogorosi latched on to and fired low into the net.
The bellowing crowd was ejected from the seats to salute a fine moment. Some familiarity was restored in the Zebra kick. It was the spark that had long faded, a spirit solely missed in the past.
Butler has always remained optimistic amid a groundswell of discontent and on Saturday, his tactics were spot on.
He deployed two men in the holding midfield position, Ofentse Nato and Ditsele which swayed the tie in the Zebras favour.
The defence was protected and Kabelo Dambe was hardly tested. Boitumelo ‘Navara’ Mafoko took the chilly afternoon to turn back the clock with a mature display as he glued together a young defence.
Aristide Bance was not the usual menace as he was bottled by an impressive young defence, which had Tebogo Sesome and Mosha Gaolaolwe.
Despite missing two sitters, Hendrick Moyo, was influential with his off the ball running and stretched the Burkina Faso defence while Kabelo Seakanyeng provided another glimpse of the array of talent the nation is bestowed with.
It was a refreshing Zebras display and befittingly saw them open their new Francistown Stadium account with a gratifying victory.
Match’s Key Moments
Zebras’ goal: Ditsele embarks on a massive run in the 49th minute, eliminating a defender before releasing a finely threaded pass into space. Skipper, Mogorosi collects and plants the ball into the net.
Best passes of the match: Ditsele’s run and inside the boot pass to pick Mogorosi for the goal in the 51st minute.
Ofentse Nato’s lofted diagonal left footer to release Mogorosi in the 81st minute, which almost resulted in a goal, was another gem.
Miss of the match: Hendrick Moyo spurned the opportunity of becoming the first player to score at the newly opened stadium in the 15th minute. He stumbled and then fumbled when a teasing Galabgwe Moyana arrived at his feet which allowed the Burkina Faso goalkeeper, Samo Gemoni to collect at his feet.
First save of the match: It took the Burkina Faso goalkeeper, Sanou Germoni a quarter of an hour to make the first real save of the match when he smothered a tame Hendrick Moyo effort.
Flash point: The Mauritian referee had a good grip on a fast flowing match, but should have sent off Burkina Faso’s Faridi Steeve Yago for retaliation against Mogakolodi Ngele in the 64th minute.
Man of the match: The 20,000 plus crowd which thronged the new match venue and vociferously rallied behind the team.