Second half strikes by Russian-based Nompumelelo Nyandeni and 2009 CAF African Player of the Year Noko Matlou saw the Banyana Banyana to a 2-1 win over a spirited Zambian side in their Olympic qualifier first leg encounter at the Nkoloma stadium in Lusaka, Zambia today.
After a goal-less first 45 minutes which produced goal-scoring chances for both teams, Nyandeni, who plays her football for Rissvank FC in Russia worked the ball over the Zambian goal-line 23 minutes after the break in a crowded penalty area.
Shortly before the end of the match, Matlou, who plays for Brazilians in the Sasol League in Limpopo province, produced a class run on the right side of the park to break infield and pick her spot in the back of the Zambian goal-net.
But it was the Zambians who saved the best for last as Kabange Mupopo unleashed a scorcher of a free-kick from 30 metres out in injury time that landed in the right hand corner of the Banyana Banyana goal-net despite a despairing dive by goalkeeper Thoko Mndaweni.
Forced to make the trip without injured players in regular centre backs Amanda Sister and Janine van Wyk, plus national captain and left back defender Nthabeleng Modiko, and midfielders Gabisele Hlumbane and Nocawe Skiti, the visitors showed character in coming to terms with their Zambian opponents and the heavy underfoot conditions.
Banyana Banyana had two lucky escapes in the match. First Zambian striker Gift Lisaka beat the South African off-side trap and with only SA goalkeeper Mndaweni in front of her, managed to hook the ball four metres to the wrong side of the upright.
In the second half, with Zambia putting pressure on the Banyana Banyana defence, Lisaka ran straight past a curling cross in the SA penalty area, to allow Mndaweni to grasp the ball.
Makhabane, a regular goal-scorer for Sasol League national champions Palace Super Falcons, was a continuous thorn in the flesh for the home side and while Hadebe will remember her national senior debut for a lifetime, she looked more at home when she moved to the left side of the midfield, swapping her right wing spot with Makhabane.
Second half substitutes in Jermaine Seopesenwe (on for debutant midfielder Mantombi Hadebe) and striker Leandra Smeda (introduced for Mary Ntsweng) gave the SA attack more venom, with the all-important strikes by Nyandeni and Matlou set to be worth its weight in gold as the Banyana Banyana head home to prepare to face the Zambians in the return leg in Umlazi near Durban on January 29. Safa.net