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Harambee Starlets held to frustrating draw by Botswana at home

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Harambee Starlets forward Elizabeth Wambui in action against Botswana
Harambee Starlets forward Elizabeth Wambui in action against Botswana
  • Violet Nanjala missed a late penalty for Starlets
  • They had to come from a goal down to equalize
  • The second leg will be played next week in Gaborone

Harambee Starlets have their work cut out in their bid for a second qualification to the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) after being held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at home by Botswana.

Starlets had a golden chance to win the game at the death from the penalty spot, but Vivian Nanjala saw her effort saved, much to the disappointment of thousands of fans who had thronged the stadium to cheer the girls on.

Marjolene Nekesa’s penalty at the stroke of halftime had drawn Starlets level after the visitors had gone ahead through Keitumetse Dithebe.

Despite disappointment, Starlets coach Beldine Odemba remains confident the team can win the game away from home in the return leg in Gaborone next week and qualify for the WAFCON.

“I think we lost thegame on finer details. Sometimes when some instructions are not followed it becomes hard. But all is not lost, we still have the second leg next week,” Odemba said.

On the missed penalty the tactician commented; “Sometimes, players need to give themselves confidence and at that time, it is a very crucial moment of the game. There are players who will walk away because they don’t want to shoulder the blame but there are some who feel they are confident enough and in this instance, Violet felt confident.”

Starlets had some few chances at goal as the game started. Cynthia Shilwatso had the first attempt just five minutes when she ran into a beautiful pass from Mwanahalima Adam, but her shot flew over.

Nyarinda comes close for Starlets 

Harambee Starlets forward Cynthia Shilwatso in action against Botswana

Harambee Starlets forward Cynthia Shilwatso in action against Botswana

On the quarter hour mark, Lorna Nyarinda came inches close to breaking the deadlock with a low shot from the edge of the box sliding inches wide off the target.

Starlets survived in the 23rd minute when Refilwe Tholakele ran behind the defense after Phoebe Owiti’s defensive header brushed behind. However, the Mamelodi Sundowns player placed her effort inches wide one on one with keeper Annedy Kundu.

Refilwe and Radiakanyo Lesego were a pain for the Starlets defense with their pace and eye on the ball. Their pace and build up play led to Botswana’s goal nine minutes to the break when some quick interchange between them sprayed the ball wide to Nondi Fingi, the latter placing it on a platter for Dithebe to score.

The goal pumped Starlets to attack more, and they found their way back into the match at the stroke of halftime when Nekesa converted from the penalty spot after a handball inside the box.

In the second half, coach Beldine Odemba made immediate changes, Sheryl Angachi coming in for Nekesa while Janet Moraa came in for Elizabeth Wambui. They went full attack with Nanjala being brought in for Nyarinda.

Nanjala adds punch to attack 

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Harambee Starlets defender Enez Mango in action against Botswana

Nanjala almost had a dream introduction when after some good play by Starlets, she was set through by a beautiful cutback by Adam, but her rasping shot was punched away by the keeper.

Starlets kept flowing in attack, and they pushed hard, but couldn’t crack the Botswana defense line, which was now made up of up to seven players as they sought to preserve the draw, which came in with an away goal.

At the stroke of fulltime, Starlets had a chance to win it and ease the pressure of the second leg when Moraa’s cross into the box was handled, but Nanjala couldn’t have it past the keeper.

Starlets now head to Gaborone for the return tie on Tuesday, and they have their work cut out. They need either a high scoring draw or an outright win to book a slot at the WAFCON for the second time.

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