Striker Sannah Mollo was the heroine of the day as she bagged a brace to give South African Senior Women’s National Team a two-goal advantage in the first leg of the 2016 Cameroon Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCN) qualifer against Botswana. The encounter took place on Saturday, 9 April 2016 at the Lobatse Sports Complex in Botswana. The second leg is scheduled for Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa. Kick off is at 19:00.
The first leg could have so easily gone the Botswana way had they taken their chances as they had the South Africans on the backfoot from the first whistle. But the tough Banyana Banyana defence worked their socks off to thwart off any threat from the hosts, who had a decent crowd backing them. After a good showing in the first half by the hosts, the visitors turned the tables in the second half with Mollo grabbing two goals within a space of four minutes (69th and 73rd) – her 19th and 20th goals in 64 appearances.
She says: ‘I think we played well as a team even though it was a very tough day at the office. The coach had prepared us mentally before the game informing us that it was not going to be easy because Botswana has really made some improvement, and we saw that in the first half. Fortunately we stuck to our game plan and worked as a team to deny them any scoring chance. As for the two goals I am very happy that I managed to get on to the score sheet and help my team to victory. The first goal eased the pressure and when we scored the second, we knew the game was in the bag but still had to work hard not to give them an opportunity to come back. This victory augurs well for us in the second leg at home.win the lways maintained that Botswana has improved and we needed to be alert at all times.’
Coach Vera Pauw says that was not the easiest of matches but her charges played their hearts out, especially in the second half: ‘It’s good that Botswana put this much pressure on us now so that we can learn from it for the return leg. We are happy that we won this fixture but we will go and watch the video of the game so we can see how and where to change our game plan for the second leg – but we cannot afford to relax. I have always maintained that Botswana has improved a lot and we needed to be alert at all times. Our mission was to win the away fixture to lessen the pressure when we meet again in our backyard. The good thing we are still on track to qualify for the women’s AFCON, which has been our target all along. Imagine qualifying for the Olympics but not managing to book a spot in Cameroon, that for us would be a low moment.’
Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang, head coach of Botswana, is aware that her side almost caused an upset against their more experienced neighbours, but it was a case of so near yet so far. She says: ‘I think my girls played well and gave South Africa a run for their money. But Banyana Banyana’s experience gave them the upper hand in the match. We had a magnificent first half but when we allowed them a goal early in the second half, it took the wind out of us. We could have wrapped it up in the first stanza when we had them against the wall, but such is football. We will definitely be changing our game plan for the away leg. We will go back to do our homework and regroup, and I am still hopeful we can reverse the result, but I know we let it slip and it is not going to be easy now, especially in their backyard. Now we go into this clash under tremendous pressure and that is exactly what we were trying to avoid.’
Botswana has never qualified for this tournament before. Meanwhile the injured Thembi Kgatlana is on the road to recovery after she was taken off the field due to an ankle injury – she only lasted eight minutes on the field as a replacement for Silindile Ngubane at the start of the second half. Captain Janine Van Wyk also suffered neck muscle spasms towards the end of the match and is said to be improving. Both players are under the watchful eye of the medical team.
Photo: Sannah Mollo in action against Cameroon at the African Women’s Championship