By: Lilemo Matlotlo
Lesotho football national team (Likuena) was eliminated by Zimbabwe (The Warriors) on final round of African Nations Championship Qualifiers at Setsoto stadium on Sunday.
This comes after Likuena played 0-0 stalemate with The Warriors on second leg, failing to capitalize 3-1 defeat of first leg of CHAN Qualifiers to Zimbabwe.
The 3-1 aggregate score send Zimbabwe to 2020 African Nations Championship Tournament which will be held in Cameroon early next year.
Likuena showed an outstanding performance against Zimbabwe, last Sunday on the return leg, but they were so unfortunate to score.
In 20 minutes of the first half Likuena were suffocating Zimbabwe in their own half, creating number of goal attempts but they failed to convert them.
Lisema Lebokollane could have broken a deadlock for Likuena in 27th minute when he was perfectly picked by Litšepe Marabe after a spot kick, but he missed the whole ball.
Thereafter, the tempo of the game dropped with Zimbabwe enjoying much of ball possession in their half.
However, with five minutes remaining before the break, it was Likuena in it again. Hlompho Kalake got loose ball one-on-one with the goalkeeper but his powerless shot was comfortably saved by Zimbabwean shot-stopper, Sibandashe Chinane.
Likuena kept on pilling pressure on Zimbabwe on the second half with Lehlohonolo Fothoane’s strike hit the upright in a bit to find an opener for Likuena.
Phafa Tšosane came in for Kopano Tseka as substitute. He took a wonderful free kick but Zimbabwe’s Chinane made a superb save, denying him a goal.
A minute later Phafa fired up once again; however his shot struck the crossbar and went over the posts.
After the game, Zimbabwean coach Mr. Joey Antipas said their main plan was to secure their 3-1 win and qualifier for Chan.
“Our main plan was to come here to secure the win and go to CHAN, of which we did. We knew that Lesotho will come at us but we played a low pressure game because you cannot come away and play an open game,” he said.
He however admitted that Likuena played a good game.
“Lesotho played well. They attacked us, our boys resisting pressure and managed to come up with the draw, taking us to the CHAN tournament,” Antipas explained.
Antipas went on to say he give his defenders credit because they were resolute at the back.
“Let me give the defenders a credit, they were resolute throughout. If they didn’t keep those chances away, it could be a different story. Lesotho was so unfortunate, they hit the upright and the crossbar.
“All in all we are happy with the results,” he concluded.
On the other side, Likuena head coach, Mr. Thabo Senong said he is glad on how his team performed.
“If we look at our game today, I am very proud with our Likuena team. I cannot single out any player that underperformed.
“I think individually every player did his best to help the team and we were just unfortunate not to score”, he said.
Senong added that they are also unfortunate with the injuries they had.
“Tšepo Seturumane got an injury during the warm up and Jane Thabantšo got an injury after being hit by the goalkeeper on his waist.
“He gave us signal that he cannot walk and run, obviously that limited our attacking options,” he said.
Senong explained that with the two different formations they used the players responded very well.
“We were flexible, we created chances, but we were unfortunate not to achieve what we were attempting to,” he said.
He indicated that he is proud with the team and the players. Senong said he believe that they laid a solid base which will help in the next campaign which is AFCON Qualifiers.