By Munyaradzi Madzokere
ZIMBABWE . . . . . (0)1
BOTSWANA . . . . .(0)3
BOTSWANA Mares striker Lesego Radiankanyo scored a second half hat-trick that left the Mighty Warriors’ chances of making it to the Africa Women Cup of Nations finals hanging by a thread in the first leg of the final qualifiers at the National Sports Stadium in Harare yesterday.
The hosts got their consolation goal from substitute Priviledge Mupeti six minutes from time.
Zimbabwe now need to win by a two-goal margin or better in Francistown on Wednesday next week to book a ticket to the continental championships to be hosted by Morocco in July.
In this leg, Botswana were by far the better side and Zimbabwe will need to produce something special to upstage the highly-motivated Botswana Mares side in Botswana.
However, Mighty Warriors coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda believes it can be done.
“Botswana came and scored three goals, with the right mindset we can still go there and upset them in their home ground. Of course, it’s going to be a very tall order and we need a lot of mental fitness from the players,” she said after the match.
“It was a very intensive game of football, very physical like we had anticipated because they brought their physical presence into the game.
“I think the mistake that we made is that our players tried to absorb the pressure and as we absorbed the pressure we then played to their strength, that is playing the long ball.”
It was an entertaining first half that saw both teams creating chances, but failing to capitalise.
Botswana looked dangerous every time they attacked and could have taken the lead in the 18th minute, but Refilwe Tholakele blazed over the bar from the edge of the penalty box.
The Mighty Warriors got better as the match wore on and Israel-based striker Rudo Neshamba thought she had given the hosts the lead with a header soon after the half-hour mark, but was flagged offside.
Rutendo Makore’s a header after a corner kick was denied by the upright post seven minutes before the break.
Two minutes after the break, Radiankanyo took advantage of poor communication between goalkeeper Lindiwe Magwede and defender Danai Bhobho to poke home the opening goal.
Radiankanyo doubled the lead in the 76th minute, heading home a Refilwe Tholakele cross.
Privilege Mupeti pulled one back with her first touch in the game after replacing Makore, nodding home a Mavis Chirandu corner kick to revive hope for the hosts.
But Radiankanyo restored the two-goal cushion, completing a hat-trick with a simple tap in benefiting from a square ball by the impressive Tholakele
Mighty Warriors: L Magwede, E Msipa (c), N Ncube, V Mharadzi, D Bhobho, E Tumbare, E Mutumbami, M Nyaumwe (B Kabwe, 89’), M Mafuruse (M Chirandu, 69’, R Neshamba, R Makore (P Mupeti, 82’)
Botswana Mares: L Moeng, K Mochawe, M Montsho, G Selebatso, R Tholakele, M Thanda, R Radiakanyo, K Dithebe (L Gaofetoge, 67’), B Otlahagile, V Mogotsi, B Johannes
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