Bahlabani falter in COSAFA opener

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Moorosi Tsiane

BAHLABANI started their 2021 COSAFA Cup under-17 campaign on the back foot losing 0-2 to last year’s finalists, Zambia, at Setsoto Stadium yesterday.

Zambia’s skipper, Joseph Banda, netted once in each half to sink Motolo Makepe’s outfit, whose preparations for the tournament have been all but shambolic.

This year’s under-17 COSAFA tournament has been incorporated into the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games being hosted by Lesotho. The games will be officially launched tomorrow and are expected to run until 13 December 2021.

Zambia started the match with a positive attitude throwing everything at the hosts and pushing for an early goal.

Lesotho finally conceded 15 minutes before the break as Banda easily tapped in a Muamba Mwale cross from the right.

It was a one-sided affair in the first half with Lesotho sitting back and unsuccessfully trying to catch their opponents on the breaks. The home side miserably failed to maintain consistent possession.

The second stanza was a carbon copy of the first with the hosts struggling to match their opponents’ fitness. Several Lesotho players were evidently suffering from fitness failure in the second half.

Banda scored his second in the 70th minute after connecting second half substitute, Frank Chileshe, in Lesotho’s penalty area.

Desperate to contain the out of control Zambia, Makepe made a tactical change pulling out striker, Paseka Mohapi, for midfielder, Retšepile Thakanyane. Soon afterwards, he made a forced change after Rorisang Malefane pulled a muscle and had to make way for Kopano Tsiane.  The changes failed to make any impact.

Zambia coach, George Chilufya said: “It is always good to win the first match because it builds the players’ confidence, so we are happy with the results”.

He however, said his side still had to work on finishing as his charges missed multiple chances.

“We could have done better but we will go back to the drawing board and work on that, there is always room for improvement.”

On his part, Makepe blamed poor preparations for his charges’ lacklustre performance.

“The last two weeks were the most challenging for us because our players were sitting for their final exams, so we couldn’t access them. This means that our preparations have been bad.

“We lost to a good team. I am happy with the performance but unhappy about the result. We will have to use the two-day break well for recovery as we will be playing a must win game against eSwatini on Sunday. The boys showed some character which I think is something to build on as we ready for the next assignment” Makepe said.

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