Hosts South Africa claimed a dramatic 1-0 victory over Botswana with virtually the last play of the game as they took control of their Group A at the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship on Friday.
Head coach Desiree Ellis had made four changes to the squad that defeated Madagascar – bringing on Kaylin Swart, Noko Matlou, Chuene Morifi and Gabriela Salgado for Andile Dlamini, Regina Mogolola, Kgaelebane Mohlakoana and the suspended Thato Letsoso.
It looked as though brave Botswana would thwart the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, who missed a penalty and wasted a number of other opportunities, until Jermaine Seoposenwe popped up with a header to break the hearts of The Mares.
South Africa had dominated proceedings in windy conditions, but at half time the scores were still level.
Ellis introduced Thembi Kgatlana in the start of the second half for Morifi, and she made an immediate impact as she ran riot at the opposition defence, but still the goals would not come.
Banyana Banyana also brought on Linda Motlhalo and Kholosa Biyana to replace Salgado and Khanya Xesi (who scored in the last match). South Africa continued to pile the pressure and almost the second stanza was played in Botswana’s half with relentless attacks from the hosts.
Then the home side was awarded a penalty late in the second half after a Botswana player handled in the box.
But when Nompumelelo Nyandeni’s kick was touched onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Sedilame Bosija, who then scrambled to save the rebound from point-blank range, it looked as though it would not be South Africa’s day.
Bosija, who ironically plays in South Africa for Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies, was finally beaten in the fifth minute of injury-time when a deep cross to the back post was headed in by a grateful Seoposenwe to send the sizeable home crowd into wild celebration.
With one match remaining in the group stages, Banyana Banyana lead Group A with six points, three more than Botswana, who are second, and Malawi who are third due to goal difference. Madagascar is bottom of the table with no points after two losses – easier in the day they lost 2-0 to Malawi.
South Africa takes on Malawi on Monday to round off the group stages fixtures, while Botswana will face Madagascar, who are already eliminated from the tournament.
Zimbabwe took charge of Group C with a comprehensive victory over Eswatini to move to a maximum of six points from their two games.
They head the pool from East African guest nation Uganda, who won their opener and must now play Namibia on Saturday (15 September) to see if they can keep pace with Zimbabwe at the top of the pool.
It took the Mighty Warriors until almost the half-hour mark to take the lead as Susan Nyama headed home to settle their nerves.
Felistas Muzongondi doubled the advantage just before the hour-mark with a neat finish, and shortly afterwards Marjory Nyaumwe added the goal that took the fixture away from Eswatini.
Two defeats leave Eswatini heading home after the pool stage and their clash on Monday (17 September) against Namibia is now a dead rubber for them.
“We improved today compared tom our last game, we made a lot of tactical changes, some due to slight knocks and others were to manage the energy of the players,” said Zimbabwe coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda.
“Overall it was a good game, but not an easy one. We had to deal with some brilliant individual players from Eswatini.
“We are taking each game as it comes, picking up points boost the confidence of the players, but the Ugandan game will be a new game altogether. We will try to improve where we need to.”
In the other match in Group A, Malawi claimed a 2-0 victory over Madagascar to send the islanders out of the competition and keep their semifinal hopes alive.
Linda Kasenda and Zainab Kapanda scored for Malawi as they had to withstand some heavy pressure from their opponents, but managed to keep the clean-sheet.
The action resumes on Saturday (15 September) when the clash of the day sees Zambia take on Central African guest nation Cameroon (15h30) for what is likely the deciding match in Group B.
Both teams have qualified for the African Women’s Championship in November, and won their openers in Port Elizabeth, Cameroon after mauling Mozambique 8-1 on Thursday.
Zambia coach Beauty Mwamba says facing Cameroon holds no fear for her side.
“We are not intimidated by the scoreline, we played at different intervals, and the weather at the time Cameroon was playing was so we will take that challenge. We will just prepare for the game,” Mwamba told reporters.
“There are only three teams here [in Nelson Mandela Bay] that have qualified to the Africa Women’s Championship, that is Zambia, Cameroon and South Africa. So playing Cameroon will give us a real test of what to expect at the AFCON.”
Lesotho take on Mozambique (10h00) as they both hope to keep their semifinal hopes alive, while in the lunchtime kick-off Uganda will take their good form into a clash with Namibia (13h00).
All the games will be played at the Wolfson Stadium and entrance for fans is FREE.