No immediate light at the end of the tunnel for Zebras

By Bakang Mhaladi

GABORONE – Despite a change of technical guard, Botswana’s national soccer team discovered that there was no immediate light at the end of what has been a dark tunnel in the past 12months.   

The Zebras went down 2-0 to South Africa in an Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) first round, first leg tie before a sparse crowd at the Francistown Sports Complex.

A Gift Motupa goal in the 27th minute and a second half strike from Ryan Moon gave Stuart Butler’s boys a healthy lead going into the return fixture over the weekend.

While the South Africans celebrated a routine victory over their easy prey, it was the usual agony for Botswana as their neighbours have proved to be the bogey side.

The Zebras are winless in official matches in a streak stretching for more than a year, although in between, the team was inactive for six months. Their only victory came in a friendly match when they beat an understrength Angola side during the country’s 50th Independence celebrations in September.

In a bid to arrest the slide, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) last week roped in former army officer, David Bright to replace Peter Butler, but South Africa did not offer any reprieve.

The supporters showed their displeasure by staying away from a fixture which traditionally attracts a bumper crowd.

South Africa was leading after 27minutes when Zebras defender, Simisani Mathumo was at fault and the Orlando Pirates striker duly benefitted.

It was two after 72minutes when Moon drove home after another blunder from Mathumo who would want to quickly forget his overall contribution.

The visitors could have bagged a hat-trick, shaving the woodwork late on, but still left with a commanding lead, which places South Africa as favourites to progress to the next stage.

Bright said he was keen to make adjustments, which he will as he heads into the second leg, attempting to retrieve what is increasingly a lost cause.

“We were a bit erratic in the first half but we played better on the ball although we could not penetrate South Africa’s defence. We need to beef up with a few experienced players ahead of the second leg,” Bright said after his charges huffed and puffed against a young Bafana side.

Baxter was elated with two precious goals away from home after watching his charges take complete control of the tie.

“We knew what we had to do and we were disciplined the entire game and obviously I am delighted with a win away from home.”

The return leg would be played on Saturday at the Moruleng Stadium in South Africa’s NorthWest province.

July 2017
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