Heartbreak for Likuena

Heartbreak for Likuena

Polokwane – Lesotho’s dreams of winning its first international title will have to wait for another year after Likuena suffered a heart-breaking loss on penalties to defending COSAFA Cup champions Zimbabwe in the semi-finals last night. Moses Maliehe’s charges reached the last four of the regional showpiece after beating Swaziland 1-0 in the quarterfinals last Saturday.

However, for the second year in a row Likuena fell at the penultimate hurdle at the hands of Zimbabwe after the agonising loss at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, South Africa.It is the fourth time the  Warriors have turned Lesotho’s dreams into a nightmare. In 2000 Zimbabwe beat Lesotho in the final. In 2013 it was the semi-finals and for the past two years the Warriors have ended Likuena’s quest on the doorstep of the final.

In the end Zimbabwe goalkeeper George Chigova proved to be the hero again as the Warriors sealed successive COSAFA Cup final berths with a 3-1 penalty shoot-out victory after the match finished 0-0 in regulation time. Zimbabwe will meet Zambia in the final after Chipolopolo defeated Madagascar 1-0 in the other semi-final with Lazarous Kambole scoring the only goal of the game.

It will be the fourth time Zimbabwe and Zambia clash in the COSAFA Cup final in the past six COSAFA Cup tournaments, with Zimbabwe having claimed victory in 2009 and 2017, and Zambia winning on home soil in 2013. But that won’t interest Likuena who looked good money for a place in Saturday’s final against the fancied Zimbabwe. However, Lesotho’s hopes ended in unusual circumstances in the shootout when, needing to convert his kick, midfielder Jane Thaba-Ntso made too much of a stuttering movement in his run-up and his kick was disqualified by referee Ahmad Heeralall from Mauritius.

Lesotho also had its chances in regulation time. The best fell to striker Motebang Sera who found himself unmarked from a free-kick in the early stages but only managed to head straight at Chigova. A star-studded Zimbabwe was reduced to long-range efforts from Khama Billiat and Marshall Munetsi in the opening half-hour as Lesotho dominated and Sera flashed a ball across goal that just needed a touch from a fellow attacker to give Likuena the lead.

Zimbabwe finally created a scoring chance in the box a minute before the break but striker Abbas Amidu’s first touch let him down and Lesotho goalkeeper Likano Mphuthi was able to narrow the angle and avert danger. Both sides had half-chances in the early stages of the second period and Zimbabwe substitute Tinotenda Kadewere might have done better when he had a free header eight yards from goal only to steer it wide of goal. Likuena will now face Madagascar in the third-place playoff on Friday. Lesotho’s wait for silverware, meanwhile, continues.

Sports Reporter

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