A late goal by Jane Thabants’o salvaged a 1-1 draw for Lesotho against Sierra Leone in Group L opening match of the Total 2021 Africa Cup of Nations played behind closed doors at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown.

The diminutive winger, who came in as late substitute, outjumped Sierra Leone defenders to net the equalizer from a ball played into the box by Hlompho Kalake in the third minute of added time.

Sierra Leone had taken the lead through Kwame Quee in the 72nd minute after Lesotho failed to clear their lines. Both teams played attacking football from the word go, but were let down by poor finishing with the home side missing the best chances of the game in the first half.

Mustapha Bundu had a very good chance to punish Lesotho in the 30th minute after finding himself unmarked inside the box, but the lanky striker failed to find the target as his effort went wide. Ntsane Lichaba also made several good saves to keep his country in the game in the first half.

Lesotho also had a good chance to break the deadlock just before halftime, but Hlompho Kalake lacked composure to punish the home side. The match headed to the break at goalless.

The Leone Stars-coach Sellas Tetteh, was the first to react with a substitution in the second half in an effort to break the Lesotho side that had been solid throughout the first stanza of the match. He brought in Alimany Bundu, who came in for his brother Mustapha.

The move worked wonders for Sierra Leone as against the run of play, they finally managed to get their way past Lesotho and broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute.

The visiting team also responded by making several changes. Star striker Motebang Sera was taken off early in the second half due to injury and was replaced by Tumelo Khutlang. Coach-Thabo Senong made two more changes bringing-in Mokone Marabe and Thabants’o, who replaced the duo of Lehlohonolo Fothoane and Bokang Sello.

Quee broke the deadlock with an easy tap-in after Lesotho defenders failed to clear their lines. Things went from bad to worse for the Southern African side as their captain Basia Makepe was sent off in the 86th minute.

However, the home side failed to capitalise on their one-man advantage as John Kamara was also dismissed for retaliation a few seconds later.

The home side were stunned in the third minute of additional time as substitute Thabants’o salvaged a point for Lesotho with a header to deny Seirra Leone the three points in the first ever meeting between the two countries.