By FOCUS REPORTER
TEAM captain Amanda Dlamini scored a goal in each half to assist Banyana Banyana to a 5-1 victory over Malawi and a place in Saturday’s Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Women’s Championships final.
Playing in chilly conditions on an artificial pitch at the Rufaro stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe today, the Malawians shocked the pre-match favourites by taking the lead in the 17th minute through Chawinga Tabitha after a rare piece of poor defending in the heart of the Banyana Banyana rearguard.
But the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana were on level terms four minutes later after Gabisile Hlumbane produced a downward header to set striker Noko Matlou off down the left-hand touchline. The speedy forward played the ball to left back defender Nothando Vilkazi, who charged through to beat Malawian goalkeeper Msiska Alice with ease.
Three minutes later, Matlou, nicknamed ‘Beep Beep’ due to her speed, was in full cry down the left flank before cutting inside and feeding Dlamini, who scored from close range.
Banyana Banyana caretaker coach Joseph Mkhonza caused a pre-match surprise by handing the goalkeeper gloves to young Andile Dlamini instead of the experienced Thoko Mndaweni, and the goalkeeper did well to blunt out several Malawian attacks with the South African defence absorbing much pressure.
The Malawians’ task became that much harder in the 44th minute after Msiska Sungeni was sent from the field after producing a crunching tackle from behind that led to Banyana Banyana midfielder Hlumbane being stretchered from the field. Mkhonza has reason to be concerned as the South Africans headed for the half-time break with just nine players on the field, with defender Simphiwe Masina also receiving medical attention on the sidelines.
A rejuvenated Banyana Banyana line up came out for the second 45 minutes of play, with an immediate substitution seeing regular goalkeeper, Vosloorus-based Thoko ‘TK’ Mndaweni on for Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies ‘keeper Dlamini due to injury.
With Malawi a player short and chasing a goal, they were always in danger of being found short at the back. Banyana Banyana captain Dlamini; took advantage of a superb through ball to loop the ball home over the goalkeeper in the 62nd minute with the Malawian defenders looking to the match officials for an offside call.
Yola Jafta celebrated her return to the Banyana Banyana midfield after sitting out a one-match suspension after her red card against Botswana, by scoring in the 85th minute after another stint of poor Malawian defending.
Chaos reigned in the 89th minute, after 17-year-old Banyana Banyana midfielder Robyn Moodaly was fouled in the Malawian penalty area. Moodaly, nicknamed ‘Gundwani’ (Mouse) was a constant threat to the Malawian defence after coming on as a second half substitute.
After the foul on Moodaly, Botswana referee Bolokonang Lengowe pointed to the penalty spot and blew the whistle before Matlou fired the ball home. Suprisingly, the match official awarded the goal to Matlou, but was then summoned by her assistant official, with the result being a spot kick awarded to South Africa. Matlou fired the ball home to make the final score 5-1.
“We started the match slow, but it’s not about how a team starts but how they finish and I am happy with that,” said Mkhonza afterwards.
“We came here with a mission to retain the COSAFA Women’s Championship trophy and everything still looks to be on course.”Mkhonza added: “Some of our players are in good form following the Sasol League National Championships held in Bloemfontein a fortnight ago, and others have been following their training programmes in a disciplined manner in the build up to this tournament.”
Reacting to questions on his decision to start the match with Andile Dlamini in goal instead of Mndaweni, Mkhonza remarked: “We wanted to give Dlamini a chance, the change at half time was not because she performed badly but because she picked up an injury. It is important that we give all the players an opportunity so that we can move forward as a team and maintain the rotation policy as we have been doing at this tournament.”
“It is important that our players do well at this tournament as you may know that we will play against Ethiopia in August and September for a place at the 2012 London Olympics,” said Mkhonza.
“It is also important that the players play enough matches together in order to maintain continuity.”