Maliehe hails ‘brilliant’ Makoanyane XI
NATIONAL under-20 football team coach, Moses Maliehe, has praised his charges for completing a double over Angola to reach the final round of the 2015 African Youth Championship qualifiers on a 4-1 aggregate.
Thabiso Brown, who scored a brace in the first-leg fixture on May 11, blasted home the only goal of the reverse tie in Luanda on Sunday, sending the fancied Angolans crashing out of the tournament.
Makoanyane XI, the moniker of the under-20 team, now face Nigeria in the last round of the qualifiers, whose first leg is scheduled for Lagos on August 16, with the return match taking place a fortnight later.
“I must say it was very difficult to come away with that 1-0 victory over Angola in their own backyard,” Maliehe on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times.
“The boys have matured so much since that disappointing, first-round exit from the Cosafa tournament we hosted in December last year.
“This team deserves credit for the way it performed in Angola under very hot weather conditions.”
Maliehe further said the Angolans did not give Makoanyane XI any breathing space in the return leg, particularly in the first half of the match.
“Our strategy was to make sure we do not concede a goal in the first half and our boys did just that,” he said.
“I can tell you it was a tough match so much that our captain, Teboho Lekhooa, had to be substituted in the second half due to injury.
“But the injury came as no surprise, as Teboho was one of the outstanding players on the day. Credit should also go to our goalkeeper, Thabiso Lichaba, who gave a man-of-the-match performance.”
The Lioli legend, formerly assistant to Leslie Notši when Makoanyane XI qualified for the 2011 edition of the tournament, believes his charges are good enough to go all the way and reach the finals of the
two-yearly event, to be held in Senegal.
“I know Nigeria are a football powerhouse, but my boys are now mature and have what it takes to beat any side on their day.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria defender Wilfred Ndidi this week told the local media Lesotho’s qualification at the expense of Angola had come as a surprise.
The Flying Eagles beat Tanzania 6-1 on aggregate to set-up the clash against Makoanyane XI.
“Lesotho is a bit of a surprise because Angola are better known for their football,” said Ndidi.
“But all the same, we will not relax and take Lesotho for granted. We are ready for them.”
Nigeria coach, Manu Garba, also said underrating Lesotho would be a big mistake.
“All matches are the same, depending on how you approach them,” Garba said.
“See the case of Morocco and Togo, where Morocco won in Togo and Togo won in Morocco to qualify for the next round.
“There are no more pushovers in the game and so we cannot afford to be complacent. We have to be at our best in all our matches, and that includes the match against Lesotho.
“We have to make sure we win big at home and not concede any goal as we are playing the first game here.”
Nigeria have won African Youth Champions six times, their recent being 2011 edition of the tournament.