Siza 5th, 24th, Spoko 16th
Selelwane 39th, Pius 48th
LOBAMBA - The nation's pride, Sihlangu Semnikati survived through the thinnest threads of football life yesterday to disrobe the stripes of the Zebras of Botswana and rekindled the fervent hopes of making the maiden appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations finals in January next year.
Three goals within the first 25 minutes via the golden boot of man of the match, Siza Dlamini (brace) and Sibusiso ⌠Spoko Dlamini were enough to ensure Sihlangu weathered the second half storm by the visitors who enjoyed a lion's share of proceedings..
The visitors, who were clearly comfortable on the ball kept the home fans as mum as Egyptian mummies as they pulled two goals through USA based striker, Diphatogo Selelwane and Pius Kgolagono then went on to literally camp at Sihlangu rear-guard like obstinate shy-locks.
But as history will always have it - the bigger they come at this national stadium, the harder they fall and Sihlangu just loves them.
The scent of victory could be smelt as early as the time it takes to boil an egg when Sibusiso ⌠Spoko Dlamini's tricky run on the right flank ended with Siza ⌠King Pele Dlamini firing wide with the keeper at his mercy.
But the gangling striker, who played the game of his life, made amends two minutes later when he finished with the precision of surgeon, a neatly taken free kick by Ndezi Masangane to send the over 8 000 fans into bedlam.
Then Siza turned provider in the 16th minute when his searching pass was well controlled by the dazzling Spoko Dlamini inside the box and the Kaizer Chiefs new signee, proved his predatory instincts, by firing an unstoppable ground shot leaving the erratic Botswana keeper, Modiri Marumo gasping for thin air.
With the visitors still wondering what kind of truck had hit them, Sihlangu surged forward in one of the best moves of the day involving the trio of Mbazo Gamedze, Shisa Junior Mdluli and the eventual goal scorer, Siza ⌠King Pele Dlamini in the 24th minute. Mbazo Gamedze initiated the move after dispossessing Selelwane and he fed the ball to the on-rushing Siza Dlamini. The gangling striker sent a searching cross to Shisa Junior Mdluli on the right flank and Mdluli drew the keeper off his line right to the corner kick before sending a gift-wrapped cross. Siza said 'thank you' and he finished with the uneasiness of a master in the craft to send the already filled stadium to wild scenes of jubilation.
Immediately, Sihlangu went to sleep.
The nation's pride was literally thrown into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and with the midfield falling apart like the biblical walls of Jericho and a goal-keeper, Bright ⌠Komari Nxumalo as jittery as a newly born kitten, the home fans were now living through 'drip'.
Botswana then pulled one back through Selelwane who caught the defence flat-footed to beat Bright Nxumalo who did very little hands down in the 39th minute.
Then three minutes into the second half, Botswana got their second goal through Sihlangu's greatest enemy - set pieces.
Pius Kgologona finished superbly with the defence ball watching an in-swinging corner kick by Ernest Amos to spoil what had been a memorable afternoon for the home fans.
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