Tuesday Jul 06, 2021. 20:29
Substitute Kagiso Malinga netted a goal on debut as South Africa defeated Botswana 1-0, while Felix Badenhorst became the greatest goalscorer in COSAFA Cup history as Eswatini brushed aside Lesotho 3-1 on the opening day of the 2021 tournament in Nelson Mandela Bay on Tuesday.
South Africa have a much-changed squad for the tournament but managed to seal a narrow victory in a game of few chances in Group A.
Botswana’s Mbatshi Elias crashed a shot against the crossbar with the goalkeeper beaten in the second half, but it was the home side who took the lead a few minutes later.
The defence looked to have pushed Malinga wide, but he managed to get his shot away and it squeezed under Botswana goalkeeper Ezekiel Morake.
Meanwhile, Eswatini defeated Lesotho 3-1 and in doing so their tall midfielder Badenhorst became the all-time leading scorer in the COSAFA Cup with nine goals. That is one more than Zimbabwe legend Peter Ndlovu.
Badenhorst opened the scoring with a superb free kick on the angle, beating Lesotho goalkeeper Sekhoane Moerane at the near post.
Lesotho had earlier been reduced to 10 men when Jane Thaba-Ntso, the man with the fastest goal in COSAFA Cup history after 34 seconds, received a deserved red card for a wild lunge inside six minutes.
But Lesotho were level before halftime when Tumelo Khutlang netted with a superb free-kick of his own.
Eswatini made their numerical supremacy in the second half count though as first Khetokhule Mkhontfo put them ahead from close-range as Lesotho failed to clear a long throw, and then Fanelo Mamba rifled home a third with 12 minutes remaining.
The action will continue on Wednesday when the first games in Group B are played.
Six-time winners Zimbabwe are up against Mozambique in the first clash (12h00) and both sides will be eager to make a winning start in what could be a tight group.
Zimbabwe have brought a young squad without many of their star names but have players who will be eager to prove their worth.
The second game will see the COSAFA Cup debut of Senegal, who will play Namibia (15h00). The west African guest nation have also brought a squad from their local league but will add flair and skill to the competition.
The top two teams in each of the groups advance to the semifinals, which will be played on July 16.
You can follow all the games live on www.cosafa.tv.
Eswatini 3 (Badenhorst 42′, Mkhontfo 57′, F. Mamba 78′) Lesotho 1 (Khutlang 45′)
South Africa 1 (Malinga 67’) Botswana 0
Mozambique vs Zimbabwe (KO 12h00; 10h00 GMT)
Senegal vs Namibia (KO 15h00; 13h00 GMT)