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Likuena suffer first defeat in AFCON opener


Chris Theko

The senior national men’s soccer team, Likuena succumbed to a 0-2 first defeat at the hands of Comoros in the opener of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)Group stage Qualifiers at the Stade Malouzini in Comoros.

Lesotho came into the group H encounter with boosted morale after a two-encounter practice international friendly double-clash against Namibia and Ethiopia in which it lost none. 

In both those clashes, Coach Vaselin Jelusic’s first-11 included attacking midfielder Tumelo Makha and striker Motebang Sera showing intent to win the games, however, in the match against Comoros, the coach opted to go with one striker in Nkoto Masoabi.

Jelusic had been fielding not less than six defenders starting with the friendly against Ethiopia where he used a 6-2-2 formation but changing it in the game against Comoros where he fielded a 7-2-1 formation playing with only one striker and seven defenders.

The hosts were determined from the start taking the game to Lesotho while the visitors were simply absorbing the pressure with the defenders doing most of the work within the first 15 minutes.

It was Comoros that continued the attack streak throughout the first half as the host enjoyed a better ball possession with the visitors managing the game, hence the break arrived with no goals separating the two sides. 

Soon after the break, Motebang Sera was introduced in place for Masoabi but the change did not prove effective as the hosts continued where they left off, pilling a lot of pressure on the visitors. 

In the 58th minute Comoros broke the deadlock through Youssouf M’Changama after Lesotho’s defense failed to deal with the troublesome Comoros forward Faiz Selemani. Salemani found an unmarked M’Changama who then slotted home an easy tap in.  

Makha was brought in for Bereng and his introduction brought some life into the Likuena setup, while Benjaloud Youssouf was brought in for Said Bakari in Comoros second substitution.

It was not long before Comoros extended their lead with a second goal through the substitute defender Youssouf in the 81st minute after another Selemani assist this time finding Youssouf who had no trouble finding the back of the net to make it 2-0. 

In his post-match remarks coach Jelusic acknowledged the difference between the two sides saying Comoros are better than Lesotho as far as experience and education. 

“Congratulations to Comoros, they have a very good team made of professional players many of them playing for first and second division clubs in Europe and majority of their football players are educated as footballers in French clubs,” he said.

The coach highlighted the gap in terms of football knowledge between the two sides which he said was an advantage for the opponents. 

“They have big advantage regarding the aspects of the game and just four months ago they played fantastic games against Cameroon against Morocco and won against Ghana so it is very clear how a good team Comoros have,” he said.

Majority of the Comoros players are born in France with most playing their football professionally in the League 1 and League two in France.

Velusic expressed that he was happy with how his team faired despite the majority of them being amateur players.

“We tried to play as easy as we can though it was not easy for us, I am happy with the commitment of our players because majority of them play in amateur league. 

“Unfortunately our performance was not enough to get us better results. I believe we can still improve because I have only been working with the team for three months and I have faith that we will give good challenges in the next game,” Velusic said.   

Likuena will have to look past the loss and focus on the second Group H match against 2023 AFCON hosts, Ivory Coast at Dobsonville Stadium in South Africa on Thursday.      

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