Day three of the TotalEnergies U20 AFCON Egypt 2023 COSAFA Qualifiers continued with some exciting youth football action, as Botswana gave themselves a fighting chance of advancing to the next round following a 1-0 win over Mauritius, while Zambia overcame hosts Eswatini by 2-0 at the Somhlolo Stadium.
The scorching heat resulted in a very slow start to the 12h00 kick off between Botswana and Mauritius with both sides opting to reserve their energies in the demanding heat of Lobamba.
It was Mauritius who asked the first question of the keeper after Jaqcues Prosper did well to time his run from a through ball, but his misdirected shot went wide off target.
The deadlock eventually broke in the 26th minute after a lapse of concentration from the water-break resulted in a set piece on the edge of the box finding its way to Botshelo Motsheja who headed home to give Botswana the lead.
Mauritius almost levelled matters just before the break after Mohammad Kadar did well to squeeze in a shot from a very tight angle for the keeper to fist away to safety.
Coming from the break, Obakeng Phuthi had the first attempt at goal after a good interchange of passes concluded with the skipper firing a low shot that had the beating of the keeper but went inches wide.
Phuthi had another glorious opportunity to extend the lead towards the end of the match after doing well to lose his marker in the box before unleashing a stunning strike that was met by an equally good save by the keeper, who worked overtime in keeping the score to a respectable 1-0 loss.
The much anticipated 15h30 kick off between Zambia and Eswatini lived up to all to all expectations with the first attack of the match coming in a minute into the game when Sinenkosi Dlamini’s trademark cross found Banele Nkambule, who could not direct his shot for the opener.
Zambian dangerman, Rickson Ng’ambi could have grabbed the lead minutes later, after a misjudged ball saw him through on goal for him to disappointingly send his effort wide.
It continued to be end-to-end action as the troublesome Joseph Banda did well to connect to a floating ball with a strong volley that was saved by Siyabonga Magagula in the 15th minute.
The hosts were unfortunate not to take the lead at the half hour mark when the speedy Nkambule did well to cut his cross back for the oncoming Sizwe Khumalo who saw his effort rebound of the woodwork.
Young Chipolopolo eventually found the lead in the 37th minute after a brilliant cross to the far post found Emmanuel Mukhosha who chested the ball down before firing home to give the Zambians a first half lead.
The lead was doubled in the 66th minute after Ng’ambi dispossessed Philiswa Dube from a high press to find Lombe Mutale, who fired into the roof of the net from close range.
Eswatini tried to unlock the stubborn defense of the Zambians who continued to be resolute for a well-deserved 2-0 victory and put one foot forward into the semi-finals.
Looking at tomorrow’s fixtures, Seychelles and Lesotho who suffered the worst defeats of the competitions at 5-1 and 5-0 respectively will be looking at putting up much-improved performances when they meet at the Somhlolo Stadium.
Mozambique then takes on Angola, in a match up involving two teams that are high in confidence following their impressive high scoring victories.
Malawi will aim to extend their lead on in group C when they face a confident Comoros who pulled off the first upset of the tournament after edging last year’s finalists, Namibia 1-0 in their opening fixture.
South Africa conclude the day with a tricky assignment against Namibia who will be hoping to redeem themselves from their disappointing 1-0 loss against Comoros.
Seychelles v Lesotho
Mozambique v Angola
Comoros v Malawi
Namibia v South Africa
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