BANYANA Banyana held Africa’s No 1 ranked side Nigeria to a goal-less draw in an international friendly match played at the Teslim–Balogun Stadium in Lagos, Nigeria yesterday.
The sides had shared a 1-all result in an international friendly encounter played at the Royal Bafokeng stadium near Rustenburg 20 days earlier.
The match was an action-packed affair with both sides rising to the occasion spurred on by the carnival atmosphere, including a brass band which played throughout the game.
The Nigerian suffered an early setback when their star goalkeeper Precious Dede was carried off the field after a clash with the South African strikers, and was replaced by Tochukwu Oluehi after five minutes of play.
In defence, the visitors absorbed much pressure, with Hallelujah Zebra Force (Sasol League Gauteng) central defender Lebogang Mabatle taking full advantage of her call up to the starting line up.
US-based goalkeeper Roxanne Barker performed admirably in goal for South Africa, with national team head coach Joseph Mkhonza giving most of his players a run.
Second half substitutes in midfielder Mary Ntsweng (for Nocawe Skiti), midfielder Leandra Smeda (for Gabisile Hlumbane), striker Noko Matlou (for Portia Modise) and forward Jermaine Seoposenwe (for Andisiwe Mgcoyi) and the attacking Sanah Mollo (for Zamandosi Cele), all showed eagerness against the Nigerians.
The wet artificial pitch caused problems for both teams early on in the match, but the home side had the better percentage of pass build ups, with the experienced Stella Mbachu a constant thorn in the visitor’s flesh in displaying her speed and passion vision.
Banyana Banyana left immediately after the match for the airport to fly back home.
All of Cele (Durban Ladies), Smeda and Skiti (both Cape Town Roses), Modise and defender Nothando Vilakazi (both Palace Super Falcons) and Mollo (Bloemfontein Celtics) will represent their clubs at the Sasol League National Championships, which starts in Umlazi, near Durban tomorrow.
Following the national showpiece club title decider in Umlazi on Sunday, July 1, the Banyana Banyana squad will continue their Olympic preparations at a training camp in Germany from July 3-14.
Mkhonza believes the players performed well in the wet and humid conditions.
“I have a strong belief that today’s match was one of greatest as we played the number one team in Africa. We are slowly building the team to a stage where they can compete in the Olympics. The girls played well out there and I am glad we tried a different combinations. We fielded new players as I believe every player should get the chance to represent the country as well as the continent with pride. We are happy with the results we are getting, although we would love to get a win, but going forward this means that the work we have been putting into preparations is paying off.” said Mkhonza.