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Lesotho beat Zimbabwe 2-0 in World Cup qualifiers

Lesotho continued their giant killing form in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers with a 2-0 away victory over Zimbabwe at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday to go to the top of the Group C standings.

Rethabile Rasethuntsa and Thabantso Jane scored in the first half to hand the Basotho only a third win in 29 World Cup qualifiers, stretching back to the 1974 finals, and advance them to five points in the group after they drew their opening two qualifiers in November.

That saw them hold Nigeria away and then Benin in their home match, played in Durban because their own stadium in Maseru is not up to international standard.

Zimbabwe, who also drew their opening two matches in November, remain on two points after an embarrassing setback and have now gone nine World Cup qualifiers without success.

Zimbabwe, who handed a debut to English-born striker Tawanda Chirewa from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League, had all the early pressure with a strong attack that also included the French-based Tino Kadewere.

But they went behind from a corner in the 21st minute as goalkeeper Bernard Doinovan missed the in-swinging ball and it bounced off Rasethuntsa and into the net. The fullback did not get a clear touch, with the ball coming off his midriff but he did not care much as he turned for joyous celebration.

Donovan claimed he had bene impeded going for the ball but it was his own defender Gerald Takwara who bumped the ‘keeper.

Zimbabwe looked for a quick response but Daniel Msendami hit his effort wide before a flurry of activity  in the Basotho box, including a vigorous penalty appeal that the referee turned away.

Captain Marshall Munetsi’s 24th minute free kick brought out a flying save from Basotho goalkeeper Sekhoane Moerane, who forced the shot around the corner.

Chirewa, who made his Premier League debut for Wolves against Arsenal in April, struck his 30th minute effort against the crossbar as he came close to a debut goal.

But Zimbabwe were then stunned again as the Basotho showed their ability on the counterattack with Lehlohonolo Fothoane feed the ball into Thabantso Jane, who hooked the ball home with a sliding effort as the Zimbabwe defence were caught napping.

Jane should have made it 3-0 when the defence was again badly exposed but his effort went wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.

In the second half there was a similar break  with Motebang Sera free on goal and with only the goalkeeper to beat. He tried to be clever and chip the goalkeeper and failed, wasting a chance to extend the score.

That 78th minute effort came as Lesotho held out in the second half to the increasing frustration of Zimbabwe and their supporters, who dominated the sizeable crowd in Soweto.

Zimbabwe should have been awarded a penalty in the 73rd minute when Moerane came out at the feet of Tymon Machope, but was late with the challenge and sent the Zimbabwe substitute tumbling down.

But the referee did not give the decision, adding to Zimbabwe’s woes.

Munetsi ‘s bicycle kick hit the crossbar with six minutes to go but by that time their cause was lost.

Lesotho will now move onto Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium where they will host Rwanda on Tuesday in their next qualifier while Zimbabwe are in Bloemfontein to meet South Africa the same evening.

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