Tumisang Orebonye scored a hat-trick as Botswana brushed aside Lesotho 4-0, while defending champions Zambia slipped to a second successive defeat on a thrilling day of Group A action at the 2021 COSAFA Cup in Nelson Mandela Bay on Saturday.
Zambia now face early elimination from the competition as they trail the top two teams in their pool, South Africa and Eswatini, by six points with two games left to play.
They would have to win both, against Botswana on Tuesday and hosts South Africa on Wednesday, to stand a chance but could already be eliminated by the time that final match is played.
Sandile Gumede scored the only goal of the game for Eswatini, which came from a corner early in the second half.
They were able to hold on bravely for the win, with Zambia having a late goal from Justin Shonga ruled out for offside.
South Africa (6 points from 2 games) lead Group A on head-to-head from Eswatini (6 from 3), followed by Botswana (3 from 2), Lesotho (3 from 3) and Zambia (0 from 2).
Orebonye is the second Botswana player to net a hat-trick in the COSAFA Cup after Jerome Ramatlhakwane against the self-same Lesotho in 2013.
His first was an excellent strike from the edge of the box just before the half-hour mark as he brought the ball down, beat a defender and crashed the ball into the corner of the net.
The second was converted from the penalty spot after substitute goalkeeper Likano Mphuti brought down Mbatshi Elias just minute after coming onto the pitch.
The hat-trick was completed in the second half when Mphuti rushed off his line to gather a ball he failed to collect and Orebonye had the simple task of scoring into an empty net.
Thatayaone Kgamanyane added a fourth late on to complete the route and bring Botswana swinging back into contention for a semifinal place.
The action will continue on Sunday in Group B as Zimbabwe will hope to pick up their first win of the campaign when they take on Namibia (14h00).
Six-times winners Zimbabwe have drawn their first two games and come up against a Brave Warriors side who beat Zambia 2-1 in their opener and are set to play their second game.
The second match will see Mozambique and Malawi clash (17h00) with both teams have secured a single point so far, though The Mambas have played two games to Malawi’s one.
A victory for either would be a huge step towards the semifinals, while defeat could leave on the brink of elimination.
The top two teams in each of the groups advance to the semifinals, which will be played on July 16.
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