MASERU – A seesaw battle at the Setsoto Stadium in Maseru on Sunday afternoon ended in a 3-2 win for hosts Lesotho over neighbours South Africa in a 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) second round, first-leg qualifier.
Bafana Bafana, under the tutelage of coach David Notoane, were fielding an under-23 side, with only a couple of those players even having any kind of top-flight experience in South Africa's Premier Soccer League (PSL).
The reasoning behind that is to use the CHAN qualifiers as preparation for the under-23's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification match against Zimbabwe in September.
But, in front of a full house in Maseru, it didn't quite go according to plan for Notoane and his men.
The South Africans were on the back foot early on as Lesotho took an early lead through Tsepo Seturumane's fifth-minute goal.
Just before half time, parity was restored when Tercious Malepe converted a penalty kick.
Bafana then nearly added a second goal 12 minutes after the interval when Athenkosi Dlala went close with a free-kick.
But having failed to drive home the advantage while they were on top, Bafana once more found themselves behind, when Makara Ntaitsane converted a penalty - as Orlando Pirates defender Malepe turned from hero to villain after handling in his own box in the 71st minute.
Once more though Bafana fought back to equalise as Livuyo Phewa, who plays for Real Kings in the National First Division (NFD), made it 2-2 in the 84th minute.
However, Bafana keeper Bongani Mpandle, the Maritzburg United back-up custodian, was to be beaten for a third time as the Crocodiles of Lesotho pounced with an 89th-minute winner from Lehlohonolo Fothoane.
The second leg will take place next Sunday at the Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto. The winner of the two legs will go through to the third and final round of the qualifiers, towards the end of September.
The 2020 CHAN tournament – which exclusively features players from the respective national leagues and not overseas-based players, takes place in Cameroon, after former host country Ethiopia were forced to withdraw.
African News Agency (ANA)