A strike from Al Ahli Tripoli forward Saleh Al-Taher was just enough for Libya to obtain three home points in their opening 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Botswana on Wednesday in Benghazi. Al-Taher followed up a saved Sanad Al-Warfali penalty kick to fire in the rebound and spoil a road result for a stubborn Botswana team, moving the Mediterranean Knights into top spot in Group J before a matchup between Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia completes the first round of fixtures.
Both teams came out with energy and enthusiasm but struggled to create clear cut opportunities. The hosts nearly found the opener only two minutes in when the Libyan attack got behind Botswana’s defense on the left flank but Mohamed Soulah’s shot attempt from close range was well blocked. After a frantic start to the match Libya elected to keep possession which limited the amount of attacking movements for Botswana.
The visitors had their first look just before halftime when playmaker Kabelo Seakanyeng was surrounded by two Libyan defenders in the corner and flipped a pass to find Mothusi Cooper outside the penalty area for a well struck volley that swerved just over the bar. Libya continued to control the match after halftime and Belqasim Rajab nearly opened the scoring when he sent his volley high and wide in the 47th minute.
Libya finally got their reward in the 52nd minute when star Hamdou Elhouni got away from Thato Kebue and was nudged down by the Botswana full back for a penalty kick. Center back Al-Warfali’s spot kick was brilliantly parried to the side by keeper Goitseone Phoko but Al-Taher struck an excellent low shot from a tough angle just inside the far post to send the crowd back into celebration.
Omar Al Khouja fired off the crossbar soon after when Elhouni brilliantly set him up and Al-Taher just missed out on a second goal in the 67th minute when he headed Elhouni’s cross wide. Botswana’s best chance to equalize came soon before full time when Seakanyeng hit a free kick from 35 yards out that was tipped wide by Libya keeper Muad Allafi and the hosts held on for the three points.
Highlights of the action from Benghazi, Libya are below.