Gaborone — A well struck Youcef Belaili first half corner kick that directly flew into Kabelo Dambe's net was sufficient for Algeria to outwit Botswana 1-0.
The African Nations Cup (AFCON) qualifier was played at the National Stadium in Gaborone on November 18 night.
The Zebras seemed to contain the much vaunted African champions for most of the match, but the quality of the Desert Foxes was evident, with the Zebras' own tepid attacking approach not helping.
On a night rain poured over Gaborone and other parts of the country after President Mokgweetsi Masisi had delivered his State-of-the-Nation Address, it had seemed as if showers of blessings were to accompany the Zebras' second match of the qualifiers.
It was not to be. With Algeria having beaten Zambia 5-0 in their opening match of the group, five days earlier in Algiers, Zebras coach, Adel Amrouche, structured a defensive system, packing his defence and midfield.
This left sole striker Tumisang 'Teenage' Orebonye isolated upfront and he struggled on a couple of occasions he had the ball, leading to the crowd baying for his replacement at one point.
From the first whistle, the hosts tried to play long balls wide to the impressive Kabelo 'Skhebo' Seakanyeng whose skill stood out for the hosts, but with the rest of the team not clicking when in possession, the Zebras never got their attacking play going.
It took t 14 minutes for the Desert Foxes to take the lead. Bellaini played in a corner kick from the left that went straight into the National Stadium northern posts.
At 1-0, Algeria settled and were able to build up play from the back.
Rarely tested by the Zebras attack, the Algerian back four France-based right back, Youcef Atal, left back Ramy Bensebaini, who plies his trade in the German Bundesliga at Borussia Mönchengladbach, centre half Aïssa Mandi, who in the Spanish La Liga with Real Betis and fellow central defender, Saudi Arabian-based Djamel Benlamri passed the ball with ease.
Amrouche swiftly acted, making a 23rd minute substitution, bringing the experienced attacking midfielder, Mogakolodi 'Tsotso' Ngele for Kaelo Kgaswane.
Seemingly rusty after a few seasons in the sidelines in the South African premier soccer league (PSL), Ngele was not able to link up with Seakanyeng and Molebatsi, who were deployed in the wide areas on the pitch and would have been instrumental if the Zebras had managed to get quick transition counter attacking play going. In the second half, Amrouche made attack-minded changes, Orebonye making way for Mpho Kgaswane and Kenanao 'Flo' Kgetholetsile coming in for Tlhalefang Molebatsi, but the Zebras still did not manage to trouble the Algerian goal.
As frustration crept into the Zebras game, Orapa United youngster' Gape Gaogangwe, who had been booked for dangerous play in the 34th minute, was later red carded in the 85th minute for a second bookable offence.
Credit should go to Simisani Mathumo, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe and Mosha Gaolaolwe for keeping the defensive shape and for periods of the match, the crowd got excited as the Zebras looked like they would push forward for an equalizer.
But it was not to be. After the 0-0 draw away to Zimbabwe in Harare last Friday, a small margin loss to current African champions, teeming with experience, was commendable for the Zebras, given the quality of the opposition - even in the absence of their talisman Riyard Mahrez, the Algerians still had skillful players such as AC Milan's Ismail Bennacer.
But going forward, Amrouche, whose side has still not scored a goal while he is in charge, will want to see the Zebras improve on ball retention and circulation as well as getting balls into attacking channels, creating chances and scoring. After the match, Algeria topped AFCON 2021 qualifiers' Group H with six points, followed by Zimbabwe and Botswana with a point each and Zambia, who were yet without a point.
Zambia hosted Zimbabwe yesterday in another qualifier.
Source : BOPA