MASERU — Lesotho’s Under-17s were left to rue a disastrous home performance after their valiant outing in Cameroon proved not enough to see them through to the last round of the African Youth Championships qualifiers.
Bahlabani lost 4-2 to Cameroon in Douala on Sunday – and the two away goals would have been crucial had Lesotho’s youngsters not been flogged 3-0 at home in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago.
In the end, it turned out to be a heavy trouncing of a team whose earlier performances had left the success-starved kingdom dreaming of a berth alongside Africa’s best youth football teams.
It’s now a matter of ifs, but the reality is Bahlabani are out of the running for a place at the Under-17 championships set for Rwanda in 2011.
Cameroon, after the 7-2 aggregate win, will now meet Mali next.
According to reports from Douala, Serge Andoulo opened the account for the home team in the early minutes before Chabeli Motlalelula pulled Bahlabani back on level terms in the 22nd minute.
Marius Obekop Badzigui fired Cameroon back into the lead moments later, only for Mohau Khali to equalise again for Lesotho in the 52nd minute.
However, Cameroon took the lead once again on the hour mark through Nlend Samuel before Mouhammadou Abdoul put the final nail in the coffin with the home side’s fourth goal in the 90th minute.
Bahlabani coach Bishop Molatoli told the Lesotho Times the result was cruel to his charges who he said “played a beautiful game”.
“Unfortunately what happened here at home two weeks ago happened again in Cameroon,” Molatoli said, referring to Bahlabani’s defensive lapses.
“The problem we had was that we did exactly what we spent the whole two weeks trying to correct.
“I am not blaming the defenders for their mistakes but they could have been avoided.”
“But the players were more relaxed and played so well despite losing 4-2 to their opponents,” he added.
Molatoli also said Bahlabani could have won the game had it not been for “injuries and weather conditions”.
He said it was devastating to realise that it was the end of the road for Bahlabani.
“It was more painful to the players,” Molatoli said. “Actually it was painful to all of us.”
Bahlabani had knocked out Mozambique in a preliminary qualifying round.
Meanwhile, Lesotho Under-20 coach Leslie Notši says he is happy with the progress his charges are making ahead of their final Under-20 African Youth Championships qualifier later this month.
Today Makoanyane XI face Botswana’s Under-23s in Gaborone in their last international preparation match ahead of the qualifying tie against Kenya in Nairobi on September 25.
Notši said his only setback was that he wasn’t able to choose a full-strength squad for the friendly match.
“Everything is going very well. There is nothing I can complain about,” Notši told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday.
“The only setback is that we are unable to pick a full-strength squad because some players are writing exams.
“But we know that football in Lesotho is not professional and school is the priority.”
He has added three new faces to the team – Bantu midfielder Thabiso Possa, Mpharane Celtics striker Mohlouoa Phatšoane and leftback Tumelo Bereng who plies his trade with Lehurutse United in South Africa’s Vodacom League.
Captain Basia Makepe and Pitso Monne are unavailable because of school commitments.
“There are some new faces in the team,” Notši said.
“It gives us a chance to freshen the team and if they play well (against Botswana’s Under-23s) they have a chance to make it into the final squad to play against Kenya.”