South Africa beat Botswana 1–0 in the first leg of the All Africa Games qualifier match, played at Molepolole Stadium on the outskirts of Gaborone on Saturday. The only goal of the match was scored by Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies player, Sanah Mollo, who gave Vera Pauw’s charges the victory and a comfortable position with an away goal ahead of the return leg which will be played in South Africa in April. The last time the two nations met was in two friendly matches played in South Africa ahead of Banyana Banyana’s participation at the African Women’s Championships last year, with Banyana Banyana winning both matches with a high score line.
South Africa was first to test the waters with Mollo coming close in the first minute, but her effort went over the cross-bar. The home side retaliated immediately, but Refilwe Tholakele’s shot went wide-off Roxanne Barker’s goals. Mollo got another chance at opening the scoring in the sixth minute, but her well-timed run after receiving Amanda Dlamini’s pass proved fruitless as the Botswana keeper was quick off her line to make a save.
Noko Matlou also came close in the 11th minute having pushed forward to attack a set-piece given to Banyana Banyana a few yards outside the box, but her effort also proved futile. Pauw’s charges enjoyed most of the ball possession. Leandra Smeda seemed to be a menace on the left-wing, constantly attacking with pace and coming close to getting the opener a couple of times in the first stanza. Portia Modise’s cross inside the area was easily dealt with after a well taken set-piece by the Sasol-sponsored Women’s National Team in the 15th minute.
Goalkeeper Roxanne Barker made a crucial save in the 27th minute, coming out to punch a long shot and Matlou clearing the rebound ball out of danger. Banyana Banyana reacted a minute later, opening the scoring from a shot by Mollo in the 28th minute, silencing the very vocal Botswana supporters. Mollo continued with her great form upfront, coming close to extending the lead in the 36th minute.
Her header inside the box was cleared-off the line by Botswana defenders with the keeper well beaten. Jermaine Seoposenwe also came close to registering her name on the score sheet just before the half-time break, but she was denied by the keeper. Barker made great saves minutes before recess, tipping over an on-target long range shot for a corner, taking Pauw’s charges in the lead going into the break.
Banyana Banyana continued with the great possession play in the second half while Botswana was searching for the equaliser. Refiloe Jane came close with a long range shot in the 51st minute, but the Botswana keeper was well alert to make a save. The home side got a few chances to level the score, but they were denied by the organised Banyana Banyana defence and goal keeper.
Shots from the Botswana strikers posed no threat to Barker in goals. Banyana Banyana continued pushing forward in search of a second goal, but the Botswana keeper seemed to be the only obstacle as she made save after save, ending the match 1-0 in favour of South Africa.