LESOTHO’s representative in the 2018 CAF Champions League crashed out of the continental tournament after beating Mbabane Swallows 1-3 at Somhlolo National Stadium in Swaziland but immediately being hurt by the away goals rule.
Bantu scored the required three goals that were enough to book them a place in the next round of the tournament but conceded a goal that dented their odds having lost 2-4 at home two weeks ago.
The James Madidilane coached outfit were tied with Mbabane Swallows on 5-5 but conceded four at home a fortnight ago and went into yesterday’s tie needing three goals for no reply to advance.
The match started with high emotions with both teams going pound for pound for an early goal. It was, however, the home side that came close to breaking the jinx early but striker Felix Badenhorst’s free header inside the penalty area was decisively dealt with by Bantu goalkeeper Thabo Silisa two minutes into the game.
It took Bantu 11 minutes to come close to goal with first leg substitute Tsebang Lebata heading home Hlompho Kalake’s cross to put the visitors in the lead.
Bantu’s joy was however short-lived as Badenhorst equalised a minute later after the Bantu backline failed to clear Tony Tsabedze’s cross.
Lebata came close again 20 minutes into the match but this time his shot was cleared over the goal line by Mandla Palma.
The visitors kept pushing and were denied glory in a one on one situation where Moloisane Ramasimong failed to beat Swallows goalkeeper, Sandanezwe Mathabela, on half hour mark.
Swallows tried to fight back and Selisa had to produce a man of the match performance with his double save from Sandile Hlatjwako on 32 minutes.
The match was forced to stop for about five minutes moments later when an ugly off-the-pitch scuffle between the two sides’ officials threatened the game but the referee soon resumed the match that went to half time a goal apiece.
Swallows returned from the break a better side and dominated possession and nearly got a lead 10 minutes into the half but Wandile Nhleko’s last touch betrayed him as he shot wide unmarked inside the penalty area.
Bantu made their first substitute on an hour mark with Lebata being replaced by Lazola Tjokotjokwana.
Badenhorst was replaced by Sizolwethu Tshabalala with 64 minutes on the clock while Bantu went on to withdraw Tsietsi Motseare for Mokone Marabe at 75 minutes.
Swallows also pulled out Hlatjwako for Simanga Shongwe at 83 minutes.
Mokone’s header from a Lindokuhle Phungwula’s corner put A Matšo Matebele back into the match five minutes before the end of regulation time.
Kalake seemed to have hammered the last nail in Swallows’ coffin as he buried a Marabe set-up right on the 90-minute mark but, unfortunately, that was not enough for Bantu.
In a post-match interview Madidilane said his charges showed character but said it was unfortunate they conceded.
“This was one of our best games and I am happy for my boys for the results because we came here to win,” said Madidilane.
“It was only unfortunate that we conceded immediately after we had scored and that affected us.”
Madidilane said this was however a learning curve for his side and they would come back as a better side next time.
“At least we gained experience from these two matches because a core of this squad was making a debut in this competition. We will take home this experience and hope to return a better side next time,” Madidilane said.
Swallows coach Thabo Vilakati was not a happy man on the other hand blasting his side for complacency.
“I think it comes from the question; who wanted it more, because our performance shows that Bantu wanted it more than us. They did their homework and we lost the match. We will go back and rectify our mistakes or else we will have to reinforce our team because it looks like there is no longer competition in my team and players seem to be relaxing,” said Vilakati.