DOBSONVILLE — South Africa edged Lesotho by two goals to one in a Caf African Youth Championship tie at Dobsonville Stadium yesterday to all but extinguish Makoanyane XI’s hopes of qualifying for the next round.
Lesotho paid the ultimate price for adopting an overly defensive approach in a game that they had to win against all odds.
While it is still mathematically possible for Lesotho to stage a miracle and qualify, that on the evidence of yesterday’s showing looks highly unlikely after hosts South Africa consigned Leslie Notši’s side to their second successive loss in Group A.
Lesotho’s performance on an improved Dobsonville Stadium pitch was a poor one, almost painful to watch. The team simply failed to make an impression.
From the beginning the game-plan was questionable. After going down 2-0 to Egypt in the first game Notši had said this Amajita date was a final and attack would be the only way.
However, Lesotho opted to start the game with three defensive midfielders with the returning Tšoanelo Koetle joining Thabiso Mohapi and Sepiriti Malefane in a stale midfield.
With creativity at a premium Lesotho retreated into a shell, one they were never really able to come out of.
The start to the game hadn’t been too bad.
For the first 15 minutes the Makoanyane XI seemed to be holding their own, keeping a solid shape and system.
However the natural inclination of the majority of the first 11 to sit back and not go for the kill inevitably meant their opponents were able to find their feet.
And South Africa, desperate to recover from an opening day loss of their own, didn’t need any second invitations.
Twenty-three minutes into the game that old weakness of Lesotho football crept up again.
South Africa swiftly moved the ball out wide to the right and impressive Amajita captain Philani Khwela swung in a delicious ball for Koapeng Letsie to head in.
The goal itself was too simple thanks to the indecision of Lesotho’s defence and keeper.
From then on the game too was simple for Amajita and hard for Lesotho. South Africa had clearly noticed Lesotho’s weak area and made a point of attacking through the wide channels.
With the wide areas now exposed to add to a lacking midfield, other parts of Lesotho’s game disintegrated too. In the 30th minute a dangerous run by Khwela could only be stopped by a foul by a desperate Malefane.
From the resultant free-kick Lucky Nguzana got his third of the tournament thanks to Kananelo Makhooane’s error goal. The Likhopo keeper let the ball slip out of his hands into the net.
The Makoanyane XI’s only real chance meanwhile was a header wide by Kopano Tseka from a corner-kick in the 36th minute.
The introduction of Mosiuoa Boseka and Litšepe Marabe after the break made a difference. Marabe, dropped after his poor display against Egypt, looked hungrier. Boseka’s calm technique also made possession slightly easier.
Lesotho improved, but only slightly. The Makoanyane XI’s efforts were helped by a rather fortunate penalty call in the 73rd minute when Marabe collapsed under the challenge of Adolph Anslou. Marabe stepped up himself to coolly slot in.
But despite the lifeline it never looked like Lesotho would find that much-needed second goal. Instead it was Amajita who were more threatening and Makhooane was forced to pull off good saves from Letsie and Nguzana. That was possibly the end of what has been an underwhelming tournament.
“I wouldn’t say we were defensive. We were aware that the game was going to be played in the midfield, but it did not turn out that way. They played the ball behind the defence and they exposed us out wide,” Notši said.