Francistown — The senior national soccer team, Zebras got off to a faulty start as they were held to a goalless draw during the first leg of their preliminary round game against the Flames of Malawi at the Francistown Sports Complex on September 7.
The game is part of the continent-wide Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers and is played over two legs and winners would join 26 other teams to be divided into 10 groups.
Under the guidance of new mentor, Adel Amrouche, the Zebras blew hot and cold in a game in which they created clear goal scoring opportunities which they failed to convert.
Tactically, the host never demonstrated an effective combination with the ever reliable Tsotso Ngele failing to produce the magic that he is famous for.
Another talented player who failed to rise to the occasion was the left footed, Mpho Kgaswane who started the game playing on the right wing where he was isolated by the team tactics deployed on the day.
He saw very little action until after 30 minutes when he switched sides with Thero Setsile, who also failed to come alive during the game.
The Zebras had plenty of goal scoring and seasoned strikers.
Joel Mogorosi missed an early chance to put the team ahead when he hit the post, much to the frustration of the local fans.
With the Zebras adopting a cautious approach dominated by short passes, Malawi sat at the back for the entire first half and absorbed pressure that came their way.
The visitors never looked threatening despite boosting Orlando Pirates' dangerman, Gabaldinho Mhango and Gerald Phiri.
The Zebras missed clear chances with Kgaswane failing to convert after rounding off his men and Ngele directed his well taken shot straight into the keeper's hands in the first half.
Mothusi Cooper in the Zebras midfield was a marvel to watch as he sprayed passes throughout the field but all his efforts came to naught.
His sublime touch of the ball left his opponents dazed.
Lebogang Ditsele did all the spade work in the middle of the park combined with some tactical defending but Amrouche's lads failed to work as a solid unit.
The Zebras defensive combination of Thatayaone Ditlhokwe and Simisane Mathumo worked extremely hard to thwart any Malawian offensive.
In the second half, Amrouche tried to show up his attacking options by introducing Omaatla Kebatho for Ngele and Onkabetse Makgantai came in to replace Kgaswane.
Malawi nearly snatched the lead against the run of play when Richard Mbulu hit the post with Kabelo Dambe ball watching.
Mogorosi, the ever dependable Zebras saviour made way for Tumisang Orebonye.
Orebonye nearly made an impact immediately after being introduced when his headed attempt hit the crossbar to deny the hosts a chance to take the lead.
The Zebras tried in vain in added time with Kebatho heading his effort straight into Malawian keeper, Brighton Muntali's hands.
Malawi for their part played like a team seeking a draw but their occasional flashes of brilliance mean that they will be more dangerous in their home turf.
The two teams meet for the return leg on Tuesday.
Source : BOPA