BANYANA Banyana fell at the final hurdle as an 84th minute strike by Zimbabwean goal-getter Rufaro Machingura saw the Mighty Warriors crowned as the 2011 COSAFA Women’s Championship winners at the Rufaro stadium in Harare Zimbabwe yesterday.
The South Africans had the better goal-scoring opportunities throughout the match, but a raid on the goal of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana with six minutes remaining on the clock, resulted in a overhead kick from striker Rudo Neshamba causing havoc in the South Africans’ penalty area.
With the Banyana Banyana defence unable to clear the ball, Machingura was on hand to slot the ball home.
The Zimbabwean coach Rosemary Mugadza, played Emmaculate Msipa ahead of Erina Jeke in the midfield at the start of the match while in defence, Danai Bhobho replaced Eunice Chibanda, who was sent off in the hosts’ semi-final win over Tanzania on Thursday.
Bhobho repaid her coach’s confidence as early as the 5th minute when she cleared a header from Banyana Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini off the Zimbabwean goal-line, while home team goalkeeper Onai Chingawo – who was named as the ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ – pulled off several full-length diving saves to keep out efforts from striker Noko Matlou.
The visitors who conceded just two goals while scoring 14 en route to the final, were severely tested in defence, with teenage centre back Amanda Sister and the highly experienced Janine van Wyk – named as the ‘Player of the Tournament’ – producing well-timed resistance to keep the Zimbabwean strike-force at bay.
Banyana made two injury-enforced changes from the line up that defeated Malawi 5-1 in the semi-finals on Thursday, with the experienced midfielder Mamello Makhabane having recovered from a groin strain to replace Nomathemba Ntsibande.
Due to the fact that Nothando Vilakazi was nursing a leg injury, Gabisile ‘China’ Hlumbane, moved to the defensive left-back position, and 17-year-old Robyn Moodaly, started on the right side of midfield.
“The Zimbabwean women’s football team have improved in leaps and bounds since we last played them in December last year, and they must receive credit for their COSAFA Championship crown,” said Banyana caretaker coach Joseph Mkhonza afterwards.
“We had good scoring chances but we failed to capitalise and paid the price. We have a lot of homework to do before we face Ethiopia in the home-and-away Olympic Qualifying matches in August and September.”
Nomsa Mahlangu, SAFA Chairperson: Women’s Football applauded Banyana for the courage they showed away from home.
“The girls played very well, but unfortunately for us, luck was not on our side. But this was good preparation for the upcoming All-Africa Games to be held in Mozambique in September. Now we can go back to the drawing board and prepare better. The girls were exposed to tough competition which was good for them and we will use this experience going forward,” said Mahlangu.
“We are grateful to COSAFA for staging such a successful tournament and hopefully this will continue every two years,” she added.
Bronze medallists Tanzania took the tournament’s ‘Fairplay’ award, with Zimbabwean striker Rufaro Machingura totalling eight goals in the tournament to claim the top goal-scorer of the tournament award.