On Tuesday November 17 the Zebras will gallop onto the pitch in Bamako a confident lot after a 2-1 shock victory over The Eagles of Mali in Francistown on Saturday November 14.
The two teams will be meeting for the second leg of the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier in what is expected to be a do or die encounter.
“We are ready for second round. We are going to Bamako aiming for a win. We will not show any team any respect, including Mali. We have a good technical team to make that happen and a crop of youngsters who are eager to play international football,” says a delighted Zebras coach, Peter Butler.
On Saturday, the Zebras re-wrote history books posting a remarkable performance that saw the home side break a string of losses against the West African side.
The two sides had met five times before the Saturday game with Mali scoring a record 16 goals against the Zebras’ paltry three. Butler said he was happy the way his charges played on Saturday because they followed his game plan to the letter.
The game saw another record breaking feat with the 26 500 seating capacity Francistown Sports Complex hosting 26 679 supporters.
Mali entered the pitch favourites to walk over the Zebras but they found a rather hard to crack nut, as the Zebras took the game to them.
Both teams started the game on high tempo visiting each other’s goal posts frequently but failing to score.
Zebras’ star players, Mogakolodi ‘Tsotso’ Ngele, Hendrick Moyo and Joel ‘Juluka’ Mogorosi caused havoc for the Mali defence as they attacked from all angles.
Nonetheless, both teams enjoyed an almost equal share of ball possession and attacking chances.
In the third minute, Ngele made the Zebras first attempt at goal after receiving a superb pass from Moyo and hit a shot on target but Mali goalkeeper, Oumar Sissoko, parried the the ball away to safety.
Mali continued their move for an early goal through countless attacks from left-back Adama Tamboura, Samba Sow and Bakary Sako but the Zebras solid defence marshalled by Boitumelo ‘Navara’ Mafoko, Tebogo Sosome and Mosha Gaolaolwe thwarted their efforts.
On one hand, Zebras kept piling pressure on the visitors, attacking from the midfield and in the 20th minute, their efforts paid off when Mogorosi made a good run into the Mali goal post, passing the ball to Tapiwa Gadibolae, who was on target to give the Zebras a 1-0 lead after a brilliant header.
After the goal, the Zebras did not relax but kept visiting Mali’s goal posts seeking another goal, hence causing havoc in the Mali’s sloppy defence of Adama Tamboura, Ousseynou Cisse and Molla Wague.
In the 26th minute, Zebras were awarded a set-piece which was well taken by Sosome into the heart of Mali’s defence.
The ball landed on Mogorosi who easily made a U-turn and shot a grass-cutter to the far corner beating Sissoko to give the Zebras a 2-0 cushion.
The game went for recess with the home side still leading.
The early stanzas of the second half saw the Comoros referee, Ali Adelaid losing control of the game and making dubious decisions, giving out six yellow cards.
Sensing trouble, Mali’s coach, Frenchman Allein Giresse, made some substitutions, pulling out goalkeeper Oumar Sissoko for Soumalia Diakite. He also pulled out Samba Sow for Toure Birama.
Butler introduced Omatla Kebatho, pulling out Mogorosi and also introduced Lemponye ‘FC’ Tshireletso for Tapiwa Gadibolae.
Mali substitutions paid off as they managed to halt Zebras attacks from the middle.
In the 74th minute, Mali found the back off the net through defensive midfielder, Kayserispor man, Samba Sow.